Review Summary: A Swan’s song to success
Dance Gavin Dance are a band that have reached a level of success that many in their vein could only dream of. After nearly a decade of tumultuous line-up changes, style shifts and fluctuating critical reception, Dance Gavin Dance had managed to carve their own niche in the music industry with their eclectic instrumentation, quirky-meme screamer Jon Mess, and melodramatic clean vocalist, Tilian Pearson. They’ve worked at their own pace to build an eclectic discography of genre-bending material with a sort of cult following that was as wacky and obtuse as the band.
That was until they released their last LP, Mothership
, love it or hate it, saw the band soar in popularity with the closest reach to the mainstream that a band as zany and commonly misinterpreted as ‘screamo’ could be. It was such a success that it bred a question that Dance Gavin Dance possibly never anticipated: “Where do we go from here?”
In comes Artificial Selection
, a record that the band’s guitarist, Will Swan, touted as being their most diverse and sonically incohesive one yet. For many bands that automatically sounds like a major red-flag, but Dance Gavin Dance are a different beast.
They’ve always tried to offer different takes on each release, with each album having a distinct genre-bending flavor to it that’s different from the last. So, it only makes sense that they’d eventually create a record that culminates that mindset into one release where each track provides some sort of separate offering. In many regards, it works to encapsulate the entre philosophy of the band. If Mothership
was a band at their peak, Artificial Selection
is the after-party—a celebration of the legacy of the band and all that they've built up to.
It might be a little far-fetched to read that at first glance, but once you get a look at the features on the record that intent starts to become clear. With former guitarist Zachary Garren doing guitar work on the track ‘Care,’ a vocal feature from former vocalist Kurt Travis on ‘Shelf Life’, several instrumental features from contributor Jessica Esposito and even several guitar cuts and a vocal performance from the band’s touring Guitarist, Andrew Wells, of Eidola—it’s obvious that Dance Gavin Dance wanted this to be their most celebratory and collaborative release ever and it pulls that off masterfully.
The range of styles that are thrown across this album are so varied that it’s hard to believe that tracks like ‘The Rattler’ and ‘Care’ originated from the same record. Bloodsucker is as serious and relentless as Dance Gavin Dance could possibly get and it comes right after the carefree ‘Hair Song’—a track that is literally about various ways you can do your hair. With the pop-punk motif of the track ‘Story of My Bros.’ the smooth RnB stylings of ‘Count Bassy’ even to the surf rock vibes on ‘Slouch’ this record goes all over the place in terms of heaviness, moodiness and experimentation.
Despite this, Artificial Selection
is easily the most Tilian-centric release from the band yet, with the first-half of the record being front-loaded with songs where he really gets to shine. The titular opener, ‘Son of Robot,’ let’s you know that right away with some mellifluous guitar melodies and a flute instrumental that do a perfect job of complimenting Tilian’s vocal cadence. ‘Count Bassy,’ features a stellar hook where Will’s guitar and Jessica’s kazoo—yes kazoo—harmonize with Tilian’s line, “don’t get all sentimental about it,” in a way that feels haunting and shows off his high ranges. Even a later cut on the record, ‘Gospel Burnout,’ shows some of Tilian’s best lyrics yet, with an anthem against losing innocence, ignorance and youth.
Even though Tilian gets a large chunk of the spotlight, it doesn’t mean that others don’t get their moments. Bassist, Tim Feerick, offers his most enticing and addictive cuts in recent memory on tracks like ‘Slouch’ and ‘Count Bassy.’ Meme-Screamer Jon Mess brings some of his most quotable lyricism with stuff like “I’m smoking weed out of a pussy filled with money, I like this,” “Dr. Mess goes flagrant till he makes you leggo your eggo,” or the factually correct: “You’ve gotta be on alcohol to hang out in a shopping mall, there’s nothing left to buy that isn’t cheaper online.” Former clean vocalist, Kurt Travis, takes over on the song ‘Shelf Life’ in a nostalgia trip that’s sure to set older Dance Gavin Dance fans into a frenzy. Both Will Swan and Matt Mingus hold their own on guitar and drums respectively. Will continues to experiment with various tones through the record. Matt even offers a brief bongo interlude on the track ‘Care.’
In many regards, Artificial Selection
is the record that Dance Gavin Dance’s self-titled should have been. It’s the band’s most collaborative and celebratory record with each piece of personnel leaving their mark every step of the way. With such an eclectic and diverse track list Artificial Selection
culminates into a fantastic celebration of Dance Gavin Dance’s legacy and history.