the old proverb, is that it can indeed learn new tricks. And while the new long-player from the so-named, Somerville, Mass.-based act doesn't stray wildly from the course plotted by two fine, noir-tinged and tension-filled predecessors, it feels brighter, louder, more potent and in places even inviting.
Perhaps it is more a question of a new outlook, rather than new tricks, but that question as yet yields no definite answer. Band mastermind Anar Badalov stated recently that the 10 songs that comprise Teeth Marks took shape quickly and with relatively surprising ease, such that only now, with the benefit of distance and time, are the songs' meanings revealing themselves to him. As before, Mr. Badalov's vivid lyrics present as closely delivered confidences, but therein there seems to be a new sense of contentedness, which suggests Badalov -- or at least the characters that populate his Sherwood Anderson-esque constructions -- is certainly learning something.
The album's quicker writing process (it's only nine months since New Dog's last record was released) didn't result in more spare compositions, surprisingly enough. Instead, Teeth Marks presents a fuller sound rendered from Badalov's characteristic blend of voice, guitar and piano. He expands his aural comfort zone via additional layers of each, finely appointed with reverbs and subtle synth swells. The record opens with "3 A.M.," a fleeting ode to infatuation ("I'll tell you anything you want to know, if you just let me walk you home") that commences with a burbling electric piano trill that wobbles like a plate spinning on a stick. "Home By Five" details the simple satisfactions of domesticity over skeletal guitar work delivered in 3/4 time ("I wear my ring but it's never too tight... life is boring, isn't it?"). The album highlight "Here All Days" introduces sturdy rhythm tracks and what feels like an inevitable cloud, the stark, dark admission "all the people that I love, I can count you on one hand, the other one I keep in my pocket." According to Badalov, the tune -- which includes the lyric that became the album title -- is loosely based on his time as a cubicle dweller ("all the hours I've been losing at my desk, you can empty the trash but you can't undo the rest..."), and also contemplates fulfilling commitments. Its restlessness recalls the nocturnal meditations of last year's excellent album Classic Ballroom Dances [review], as does the menacing distorted electric piano and fits of feedback that open the succeeding song, "Lover's Palm."
"Joe Brainard's Idea" is comprised of snatches of tangential memories, and was inspired by the titular author's volume "I Remember." The tune ruminates on the push and pull that memories can have as one grows older -- particularly memories that can cut both ways: is it joy or regret Badalov feels as he recalls "outside on a blanket at night, a thousand sparking eyes looking down at us?" The track "Sudden Amnesia" is notable for being the new collection's sole cover; its a composition by poet and literary critic Frank Manchaca. Badalov revealed on Facebook recently that he and Mr. Manchaca have been collaborating on a record titled Laughing Around The Bend that may also see release this year. Teeth Marks closes with the powerfully poignant piano ballad "Would You Let Me In?," a song made all the more poignant by its placement at the end of the record, and the repeated sizzle and snap of closing hi-hat, which suggests one possible answer.
Badalov self-released Teeth Marks in a hyper limited edition of 50 LPs and as a digital download today; Classic Ballroom Dances was released by Kill Rock Stars. Teeth Marks will be fêted with a record release show March 24 at Cambridge, Mass.'s charming bar The Plough & Stars; also on the bill that night is Emerald Comets, a side project of Guillermo Sexo's Reuben Bettsak. Stream all of Teeth Marks via the Bandcamp embed below.
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Prior New Dog Coverage:
Review: New Dog | Classic Ballroom Dances
Together With Together: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Abstract Electronics And Indie Rock May 12+14
Review: New Dog | Lost Weekend
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