"Classic Ballroom Dances" is as much a series of chipped, fading tintypes as it is a collection of words. Each phrase captures, along with a steady whiff of nostalgia, glimpses into the times-gone-by of some anonymous urban setting, perhaps the Chicago of Simic's late adolescence. The images are rich and poignant, and readily scan for people of a certain Western upbringing. For that set of people, anyway, there is a universality to Simic's images, and this is perhaps how the new record by veteran songwriter (and Simic fan) Anar Badalov diverges most noticeably from the poem from which it takes its name. Mr. Badalov's Classic Ballroom Dances, his second record under his New Dog moniker, is marked by its adeptness at conveying the personal, whereas Simic's poem so ably translates the universal.
Somerville, Mass.-based New Dog bowed with the stirring 2014 debut set Lost Weekend [review], whose homespun reveries quietly billowed and softly clicked. The home-recorded Classic Ballroom Dances expands New Dog's sonic palette -- and in places, its dynamic range -- without diluting Badalov's keen minimalist approach or piercing the veil of sublime intimacy that permeates his (yes, poetic) songs. Across its beautiful ballads ("Love," "Out Of The Blue") and tense noir ("The Airport Lobby"), the decidedly nocturnal record sounds bigger without succumbing to the sometimes hollow dazzle of obligatory bigness; its carefully measured dynamics and gentle vocals still give the feeling that Badalov is sharing closely held confidences with his words and music.
Even so, in places Classic Ballroom Dances flexes its muscles in such a way as to burst the too-easy slowcore tag that has been hung around New Dog's neck. This manifests in ways small and great: there's the anachronistic war whoop during the tight guitar soloing in the first minute of the smoldering march "23" on the one hand, and the outsized fuzz of the noisy title track on the other. "Classic Ballroom Dances" launches with big distorted chords that are probably as close as New Dog might ever come to approximating the bile of The Walkmen's epochal "The Rat." However, Badalov's tune (which touts the brilliant, blurry lyric "there will always be people, and there will always be you") is a swinging, near-anthem interrupted by quiet passages of Badalov's typically brittle guitar chords and speckled with light piano flourishes. Later, the song "Dusklands" works itself into the same sort of lather, but not before staging a few quiet, glimmering verses that echo the android soul music of Pinback. The highlight of Classic Ballroom Dances is its haunted, dreamy center "Hospital Nights," whose introductory moments would not be out of place on one of Kompakt's amazing Pop Ambient comps. The songs alternates two spare notes on the electric piano, which find themselves surrounded by spectral voices (perhaps the television referenced in the lyrics?) and a cycling, ominous and, yes, amorous low guitar lick. It is that guitar line that propels the song toward a fade that does little to resolve the sense of restless between-ness the song conjures.
Kill Rock Stars released Classic Ballroom Dances yesterday as a limited edition LP and digital download; order the vinyl direct from KRS right here, and acquire the digital download via the New Dog Bandcamp right here. Badalov and touring drummer Justin Kehoe (he formerly of Boston noise-gaze goliaths Soccer Mom) kick off a European jaunt Saturday in Germany, and a full list of live dates -- including a homecoming show of sorts at BAR in New Haven, CT July 15 -- are below. We were very pleased to present the very first show performed by the newest iteration of New Dog earlier this month, and you can look at very nice pictures from the show right here courtesy of Bradley's Almanac. Stream all of Classic Ballroom Dances via the Bandcamp embed below.
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06.06 -- Bielefeld, DE -- AJZ Club
06.07 -- Cologne, DE -- AZ Koln
06.08 -- Karlsruhe, DE -- House Show
06.09 -- Darmstadt, DE -- Oetinger Villa
06.10 -- Munich, DE -- Kafe Kult
06.11 -- LEIPZIG, DE -- Dr. Seltsam
06.12 -- Pilzen, CZ -- Papirna
06.13 -- Broumov, CZ -- Silver Rocket festival
06.14 -- Brno, CZ -- Kabinet Muz
06.15 -- Koprivnicem, CZ -- Mandala
06.16 -- Breclav, CZ -- Denni bar Dvur
06.17 -- Pardubice, CZ -- Divadlo 29
07.15 -- New Haven, CT -- BAR