Wednesday, June 17, 2015

dollys, Oh, Please, 2015

Album Review

It's here! Well, almost.

The long-awaited debut LP from New Brunswick (or is it Asbury Park?) band dollys is set for release on Friday, June 19th. Since recording Oh, Please, dollys have gone from a quartet to a trio. They've also gone through an ever-so-slight stylistic change, heaping most of the vocal responsibilities on their kinetic and minimalist drummer, Natalie Newbold. But Oh, Please captures a moment in dollys' evolution when they already sound like they're at the top of their game.

"Who cares if it's not in style?" sings Newbold on opener "Shameful." It's kind of a manifesto for dollys who deal in the retro sounds of pop and dream pop masters like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, (Steven Patrick) Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Stuart Murdoch, and Elliott Smith. Did I say retro? I should have said timeless. From the Erik Romero bass riff that opens the song to the "ooo ooos" to the intertwining vocals of Newbold and Jeff Lane and the jangling of Lane's guitar throughout the chorus, "Shameful" is one of the sweetest-sounding takedowns of someone that you're likely to hear.

"Oh, Please" opens with a speeded-up martial drumbeat from Newbold. Lane sings of his frustration at someone's part in the dissolution of... a friendship? a former band? both? "I thought that only my worst enemies have that sort of amputated memory." It's a bouncy bit of power pop worthy of someone like Matthew Sweet, but there's definitely a little bitterness there (Ouch, Jim. Ouch.).

"Bottles" has keys and amazing harmonies. There's a jazziness to it that gives it more of a late-60s pop feel. "Heavy Head" slows things down. The guitar work of Lane and Michael Mendonez (is that a little homage to Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk?") and some distant harmonies create a blend among 60s pop, psychedelia, and modern dream pop that's appropriate to the song's subject matter of a coffee-less morning.

A favorite of the band's live set, "Lilypad" features more of those layered harmonies and more of Newbold's right-on-point percussion. This song has been a favorite of mine since the band released a video for it last year; and, full disclosure (even though I'm not sure if they used it), I was among the group that provided vocals for the closing "I wanna beeee everybody I know..." during the band's listening party for the album a few months back.

On "Anywhere," the band go for a bit of a Manchester vibe, combining acoustic guitar and some surf-like trem use. Again, the guitar work beneath the chorus is a detail not to be missed. Lane goes into full-on Elliott Smith mode for set closer "Puddles." The rest of the band back him up with some ethereal harmonizing as he picks and strums an acoustic guitar.

dollys recorded Oh, Please entirely to analog tape. No computers. No pitch correction. I'm sure, if you listen closely, there may be a mistake here and there; but I don't hear them. Or, if I do, they don't sound like mistakes to me. Lane's and Newbold's vocals show no ill-effects from the lack of computer enhancement either.

Bassist Erik Kase Romero produced, and he achieved something that sounds alive, that you can feel filling up the space where you're listening. When you consider that dollys are a band that can be found playing some New Brunswick basement almost every weekend, the labor and attention to detail that went into Oh, Please is pretty amazing.

I've said this before, but great pop music takes discipline. The seamless-sounding analog recording, the tight 32-minute running time. Oh, Please is a case study in discipline. But it's also a case study in great pop. Great pop that, at the end of a long and crazy day when you wanted to get a review posted but could just never find the time, can transport you back to a place of calm and happiness.


dollys celebrate the release of Oh, Please this Friday, June 19th, with a show at New Brunswick's Court Tavern. Also on that bill are Deal Casino, Rocky Catanese and The Chapter, ROMP, and The Vaughns. Head over there to pick up a copy and to hear these songs and everything else the band have been up to. You'll be blown away.

Oh, Please is due from our friends over at Sniffling Indie Kids.

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