Review Summary: We All Belong is a solid album full of piano driven, harmony filled Pop music that sounds like it could have been released 40 years ago.
Every once in a while, you come across a band that just seems like they would work so much better in the past, a band that sounds like they stepped into a time machine and came out [insert number] years later. To some extent, much of the synth-pop revival of not so long ago is an example of this; a better example, however, is Dr. Dog. While the most fitting genre to place Dr. Dog’s latest, We All Belong
, in may be Indie-Pop, the 12 songs that make it up don’t sound a whole lot like The Shins or Death Cab for Cutie. We All Belong
instead sounds like an album that was buried in Brian Wilson’s backyard for 40 or so years.
Second track and single, My Old Ways
, is so 60’s esque I almost did a double-take when the colorful animated video came on my television. Everything, down to the song’s brilliant lo-fi production (this comes from the fact that the entire album is recorded on tape) and multi-part harmonies, seems to scream early Beatles. The song’s piano, tambourine and bouncy bass only add to this feel. The track’s chorus, comprised of “lead woofer” Scott McMicken’s cries of “I don’t ever want to go back to my old ways”
and relatively spectacular backing vocals, makes My Old Ways some of the best 60’s guitar pop to ever come out of the 21st century. Keep a Friend
, despite a switch in singers, continues this guitar pop feel. Relying slightly less on piano than My Old Ways, Keep a Friend is bluesy and sad, yet its choruses reek of beauty and the verses still contain the same excellent harmonizing.
Lyrically, Dr. Dog sticks to relatively simple topics. One of the album’s more sorrow laden tracks, Die, Die, Die
speaks of heartbreak through lyrics like “It turns out cigarettes can kill you/cause when you didn't come back/every time that I thought of you/I smoked a whole pack”
. Dr. Dog’s two vocalists both have distinctive voices; the previously mentioned McMicken has a unique high pitched voice (at times it almost sounds like a howl) that fits perfectly with his band’s brand of nostalgic Pop while that of Toby Leaman is much deeper, and fits better with the more bluesy numbers on We All Belong
. Differences aside, both could easily fit in with the sixties scene many of the band’s influences were spawned from.
Of course, Dr. Dog’s contemporaries aren’t all past middle age. Girl
, despite its Beach Boy’s harmonies, recalls one time tour mates My Morning Jacket at their most energetic. The end of Ain’t it Strange
brings to mind Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips and the catchy stomp of Old News
sounds a bit like Cold War Kids. But really, many of the tracks, like the previously mentioned My Old Ways and album closer We All Belong
, show the band’s true allegiances lie in the pop rock of yesteryear. The latter of the previous examples features some slick, yet relatively simple, guitar riffs, probably the most prominent lead guitar work on the album. Towards the end, the usual piano, guitar, bass and drums are joined by strings and horns in a grand build-up/outro that ends Dog’s fourth record on a high note.