Review Summary: Eclectic, unique, and captivating to its very core.
The Dø aren’t exactly a household name in America, and that’s a shame. It’s the reason that, even though the band debuted at number one on French charts in the past and has just returned to claim another top ten spot, I still can’t find another soul who is more than vaguely aware of their existence. In fact, most of the time people just assume I’m talking about dough, mispronouncing “do”, or choking on a pretzel. It’s sad, really, considering how bandmates Olivia Merilahti (lead vocals) and Dan Levy (multi-instrumentalist) laid their foundation in cinema, dance, and poetry recitals just to be possibly mistaken for a do-the-dew
soft drink reference. Shocking lack of culture in American society put aside though, this is definitely a band that deserves more recognition than they are currently receiving. After all it’s not like they are invisible, with two very well-received albums and four singles under their belts. Perhaps that’s why they chose the direction they did on Shake, Shook, Shaken
. Whereas previous records A Mouthful
and Both Ways Open Jaws
displayed plenty of charming quirks, The Dø’s latest album reveals their sleekest and most polished side yet. Rooted deeply in electro-pop with a mild 1980s dance vibe, Shake, Shook, Shaken
transforms this duo’s sound for the better – regardless of whether it ends up becoming a launch pad to stardom.
Shake, Shook, Shaken
(say that ten times fast) is rich in vibrant beats, mesmerizing atmospheres, and soaring melodies. Anyone who listens is susceptible to being overcome by its spell, one that will cause involuntary toe-tapping and humming, as well as days of having each song permanently lodged in your memory. If you enjoy a challenge, try listening to ‘Sparks’ – the album’s creative and emotional epicenter – without swaying any part of your body in the slightest. It’s impossible. With an ominous backbeat driving Merilahti’s captivating vocal delivery, it’s the musical equivalent of seduction. Even in its more basic moments, Shake, Shook, Shaken
is always ridiculously catchy. For instance, the opening ‘Keep Your Lips Sealed’ is a bread-and-butter pop tune, but the hooks are so damn strong that they carry the track in lieu of any other overtly memorable trait. Even as the melodies soar unabashedly, there’s a restless quality to the music that keeps it moving along at all times. ‘Going Through Walls’ is the
example to back up that assertion, featuring delightfully weird organs amid shifting tempos and electronically overdubbed vocals. Musical curiosity and mainstream accessibility almost never cooperate this willingly, but when they do, the results are spectacular.
The problem with most albums in an upbeat, electro-pop vein is that they fail to portray a spectrum of different emotions. It’s all too easy to allow everything to blend together with no variety in the name of “the album atmosphere.” However, The Dø don’t take the easy way out here, as they include some of the most poignant moments of their career...and it all fits into the record seamlessly. ‘A Mess Like This’ trumps all other possible instances, where Merilahti sings “you were the worst idea I ever had” with tortured affection. It is one of the crystallizing moments of Shake, Shook, Shaken
, taking the emotional highs and lows of the album and wrapping them all in the same box. Merilahti’s ability to sing happily and flawlessly, hitting every single note, on a song like ‘Miracles’ and then sound just as convincingly tense and agitated on ‘A Mess Like This’ is remarkable. She does it again on ‘Nature Will Remain’, where she laments “I close my eyes till there’s no one around, every face that I know simply gone long.” It’s not always so clearly divided, either, this range of emotion. Whereas some artists have “fun songs” and “sad songs”, Merilahti’s feelings are integrated throughout. Sometimes, even in the midst of the record’s most optimistic, triumphant sounding choruses, you can hear a slight twinge of pain, as if there’s something deep and dark underscoring the entire experience. Certainly, Shake, Shook, Shaken
is no saccharine affair.
The Dø leave nothing in their arsenal behind here, drawing inspiration from pop, folk, indie-rock, electronica, and even a little hip-hop. It’s an eclectic’s dream, sampling such a wide range of styles and welding them together as opposed to mashing or crunching them in a way that is noticeably forced. At its heart though, it is still an electronically influenced indie-pop record, and a phenomenal one at that. It isn’t perfect, obviously, as its crystalline production and all-purpose accessibility at times diminish the overall sense of depth and profound purpose. It’s not a gritty, lo-fi album designed to make you appreciate it over months of analysis. It is meant to be immediately gratifying, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they are being who they are. With Shake, Shook, Shaken
, we get an album that has never sounded truer to The Dø’s strengths as a band.