Review Summary: Wow, that sounds pretty cool.
Sometimes the initial thought of “wow that sounds pretty cool” can hurt an individual’s overall outlook on a band. From that point on, your mind is left to fight between focusing on that one ‘pretty cool’ thing versus everything else the band brings to the table. Worst of all, that one intriguing thing could actually turn out to be the only remotely interesting factor in the entire affair. And when the luster of that one stand out dimension of the band wears off, you’re left with nothing else to make you continue listening. The Dutch Uncles sophomore release Cadenza was largely plagued by just such a dilemma. We were presented with catchy songs with intricate time signatures and looping guitar work the likes of which hadn’t really been experienced before in the indie pop realm. But when song after song emulated that same looping style it started to drag and mesh together, making Cadenza a much less exciting release then what our initial thoughts might have implied.
With that we have a clear idea of what the Dutch Uncles had to do in order to improve upon their previous average outing. And they’ve seemed to achieve that with flying colors. From the start of the record it’s entirely obvious that this is still the quirky, off beat Dutch Uncles that we heard on Cadenza, but there was something different, something that was not entirely obvious on the first listen. That one thing, as it turns out is the addition of, quite simply, more stuff
. Each song has that baseline of a keyboard loop or guitar lick that will hook your head into a gentle bob, but on top of it all is dense synths, swelling violins, and other, more obscure, instrumentation. Lead single “Flexxin” is a great example of this shift because if the song had been placed in previous outings, the dynamic violin lead would have been left alone to carry the entirety of the song, but is now piled onto by stacatto synth work, tambourine shaking, and even more violins.
Over top of the proceedings lie Duncan Wallis’s near ethereal vocals, which add a sense of serenity to the conglomeration of sound underneath. Vocally, it’s not really all that attention grabbing, but instead makes for a nice accompaniment to the improved outing from the rest of the band, presenting a very complete sounding package. The strongest vocal track is by far “Nometo”, where Wallis’s vocals basically become part of the instrumentation, resulting in a song that sounds much like something we would hear from M83 (not to mention with the electric guitar lick that sounds straight out of his playbook). Overall, I think the Dutch Uncles have maximized what they can do within the restraints that they have established for themselves. They’ve set a formula, built it up as far as they can, and are now at the top of what that formula can provide. The question now is how long this single idea can keep them from being lost in the indie pop fray.