Review Summary: Dinosaur Feathers cash in their potential for something that's "kinda good".
What feels worse to me than an album that is a straight up flop is an album that you love on first listen, but fails to withstand the test of time. The first handful of listens you fall head-over-heels in love with it, and after that it starts to turn sour and you only revisit it every so often. Such is the story of Dinosaur Feather's 2010 debut, Fantasy Memorial and I. The poppier take on Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective on tracks such as "Family Waves", "Teenage Whore", and "Fantasy Memorial" grabbed my heart and didn't let go until I listened to the album enough times. After that, the record wasn't nearly as good as a listen as it used to be, although it still remained as one of my favorite albums of that year.
While I am yet to put the band's sophomore effort to the test of time, it is holding up to be an acceptable follow up to Fantasy Memorial. But despite Whistle Tips' ability to make it by the seat of its pants, it still has a thin, confusing air of disappointment. The African influenced freak-folk of Fantasy Memorial has been ditched for an even quirkier guitar-driven pop. This is evident from the pretty good opener "Young Bucks", which retains the poppiness along the likes of "Family Waves", as well as the very obvious Beach Boys influence. However, signs of (d)evolution in the band's sound are extremely evident, mainly by the prominent use of electric guitar, an instrument seldom used on Fantasy Memorial.
After "Young Bucks", Whistle Tips begins to dip downwards with the frantic and confused sounding "SURPRISE!". While the slight disjointedness was a large contributor to Fantasy Memorial's enjoyability, Whistle Tips feels much less cohesive then it should be. Moments such as the brief sections of silly la la la's in "Family Waves" went over rather well in the past, the uncohesive segmentations on Whistle Tips are excecuted in ways that made albums like Skeletal Lamping fall short. However, the album does excel in some places, such as on "Certain Times", which does the band's new sound rather well, implementing the lovely harmonies that Dinosaur Feathers is known for with the newfound spastic quirkiness that infects Whistle Tips. The band also managed to pull of an excellent love song with "Cure For Silence", which wouldn't sound out of place on Aim and Ignite (a comparison which brings out lead vocalist Greg Sullo's striking resemblance to Nate Ruess on the track). "Your Move" also serves a nice, quick serving of dancey poppiness before the album runs its course.
Overall, Dinosaur Feathers seems to have started from scratch all over again, chosing to continue on with a sound completely different than what they had down perfectly fine in just one album. Fantasy Memorial showed a lot of potential for the band and could into something great had they gone along with it. But on Whistle Tips, that potential was traded in for something that ended up just being pretty good. Whistle Tips does have its moments, but its inability to live up to the charm of Fantasy Memorial fits it into the dreaded category of "sophomore slump". Of course, the band could definitely be going somewhere with this new sound, but Whistle Tips feels no more than a test to see how well such a sound would go over.