“Zounds” – ‘Dappled Cities’ [Joint Review]
I said in my Friday review that things were starting to hit the fan, and although we did finally manage to pick something in the end:
“…. Hey, hey, what about this?”
“No… too cliche. This looks interesting, what about it?”
“Uh huh, looks like shit-on-a-stick to me.”
“Yeah uh, but it could sound good.”
And so the argument sprung forth, and God was happy. And on the eighth, ill-conceived day, he brought forth “Zounds” by ‘Dappled Cities’, and his disciples looked upon it with a greedy gaze, for they were happy too. Together, they danced around the raging bonfire called “Zounds”, and all was seen to be good:
I’ve had about a day to really get into “Zounds”, and people, there is so much here to begin with, that it’s really going to be hard to get out of the niche that ‘Dappled Cities’ have constructed for us-guys. There’s a healthy mix of everything going on, it’s not just indie, it’s electronica, its ambience, post-rock, pop-and-all-his-friends; anything but ordinary. It’s like listening to ‘The Killers’, ‘The Presets’, ‘Franz Ferdinand’ with some ‘Engineers’ for good luck and a touch of the ‘Midnight Juggernaughts‘ for emphasis. It’s official, those are some of the most prominent bands at the moment, made famous by their signature-styles; key-and-tempo shifts, spastic-synth, layers-layers-layers, and lyrics-lyrics-lyrics, with exquisite-vocals, with epic+ track after epic+ track. More importantly, there most of my favourite artists, so ‘Dappled Cities’ – cheers to you guys, you’ve struck many-a-chord with my musical-tastes.
… And now I’ve seen it, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, an album that oozes so much epic that it’s just too much epic. Negative-epic, never – it is totally inconceivable for such albums to exist. I’ve never thought it possible. So, here’s the info you guys have been craving:
‘Dappled Cities’ apparently formed on the East Coast, guys – Sydney, Australia. And I think I can safely say that this tops any of the stuff that I’ve seen come from Sydney in the meanwhile. It’s got the indie-style that’s been missing, quite frankly I’ll say, from the Perth scene in the better part of this year. And you thought “Humbug” was good, in my personal opinion, ‘Arctic Monkeys’ pale in comparison to ‘Dappled Cities’. Look, I’ve given ‘Arctic Monkeys’ many a chance to prove me wrong, but they’ve always come short, and I’m at the end of my tether. Look, ‘Dappled Cities’ even bought me chocolates – in a heart-shaped box.
Come on, ‘Arctic Monkeys’, keep up with that!
Now onto the style of the album, and when I say it’s got a mix of everything, I do mean it. Tracks are so successful because I think that ‘Dappled Cities’ have neglected album-context and gone for epic-context. I don’t think I could safely apply epic-context with any other album I’ve reviewed this past year, because there’s always been a track that I’ve thought could stand a little more work, or was just casually added for some album-length. Suffice to say, even then I gave it a five, or a four, so it’s not to say that they failed miserably. What constitutes epic-context, you ask?
Tracks are so dissimilar from one-and-other, that you’ll find the album works like the acts of a play, or the chapters of a book, complete with cliff-hangers and all, deaths, tragedies, and many-a-birth – you name it: resurrections+. When I mean ‘The Killers’, I mean the lyrical-genius that they abound in, when I mean ‘The Presets’, I mean the synth that is so characteristically them, ‘Franz Ferdinand’ and their key-and-tempo shifting art-form, ‘Engineers’ and their multi-facet-layering and ‘Midnight Juggernaughts’ and their spicy-synth-indie combinations. All of them together make up the whole of “Zounds”.
And onto songs themselves, we’ll start right from the beginning: “Hold Your Back” opens with some off-key synth, some reminiscent acou. percussion and the crazy bleed of Preset-like-ambience. This combines to form the basis for the entire track, and when the lyrics:
“Hold your back… ” appear, it’s like listening to the lead of ‘Coldplay’ – and their stolen off-key vocals. It slowly powers through this lengthy repetition of lyrics/solo, slowly building to a chorus here, a chorus there, with multiple key-changes which are characteristic of post-rock and some indie music forms. By the end, we’ve got our guitar, our synth, our ambient-synth, or lyrics/vocals, and some crazy instrumental-vocals sounding off in the background that are uncannily like the pitch of ‘The Temper Trap‘.
“Uhh… Uh… Uhhhhh… Uhhh…” they whine.
By the time we reach the second track, we’re fully immersed in the five-minute-intro. “Answer Is Zero” follows the first, and again, it begins with the base-layer of percussion-like-vocals, acou. percussion, with the explosion of guitar and then the icing called the lyrics. If you must see fault with anything ‘Dappled Cities’ has to offer, it’s this cleverly composed musical-equation that they follow throughout the album, and this is perhaps the only consistency you’ll find.
“The Price” follows, and begins with the scratch of guitar, an emphatic-entrance of synth and the lyrics:
“If eyes were bone and toes were gold, we’d have somebody new…”
Here, we see the flaunt of their guitar as it reaches these startling highs and quiet lows. There’s still that same musical-equation which sees them build to a chorus, or power through to the end. But it works so well, that you’ll ignore these minutia. So, I’ll move onto my personal favourite, and it’s smack-bang in the middle of the album: well, fourth, that was an excited-overstatement…
“Wooden Ships”, opens with this solemn, synthetic brass, and you’ll see some more ‘TTT’ qualities, because the vocals start off softly on the girlish-highs. It’s in a really different light compared to the trio-openers, and instead of this upbeat-glee that was present before, it’s replaced with this new-found intimacy, somewhat-sadness, and it’s typical of post-rock. The lyrics here, are exemplary – key-shifts make up the urgency on the chorus, and shake the song up a bit so it doesn’t follow through with the same consistency it had to begin with. At 3:34, we have a soon to be infamous, stop and start routine, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
And I’ll leave it there, the rest are for your pleasure. Now, the rating. I find that the album is full-bodied, generous, tracks length at around the five-minute mark, and it easily goes for an hour. It lacks speed, so it won’t feel like “Conditions”, conversely, it can sometimes drag its feet a little, so you might get lost a bit along the way. But, to make up for it, ‘Dappled Cities’ epitomise the word ‘thief’. They’ve taken little bits from other bands and made it their own, and it’s a characteristic I’ve seen fail a few times – you’ve got to be bloody good to pull it off. I saw ‘Jet’ do it, and they fell off radar completely. Somehow, ‘Dappled Cities’ have taken the best of everything and made it even better. Then again, epic-context has been given a definition – but with so many epic+ tracks, I need at least one at legend-status to fully give it a five; at the moment, it’s somewhere around 4.9888888. Definitely a buy, definitely a listen – go on out and treat yourself!
The Enantiomorphic God