Not much is different for Dr. Dog since 2008's Fate, as the band is still glorifying their '60s pop rock idols, but the formula works better here. The songs distinguish themselves much better and instrumentation is a bit more varied, producing great tracks like "Where'd All the Time Go" and "Jackie Wants a Black Eye". Whether it's something the band has never been able to accomplish after six albums or if it's just in their DNA (I think the latter), Dr. Dog still doesn't have the teeth to make them a breakthrough group. But Shame, Shame is an easy rock pleasure, and sometimes that's really all you need.
Beach Fossils: Beach Fossils
[Captured Tracks 2010]
It's more lo-fi, lazy summer music in the vein of Real Estate. Guitars jangle and interweave, beach bum vocals echo, and the tambourine rattles with glee. Unfortunately, Beach Fossils is so sun-bleached it virtually dissipates, as there's little substantial about the melodies, lyrics, or any insight on the band itself. The album's psychedelic fog and easy aesthetic are certainly chill to the core (and for that lo-fi summer sound I'm absolutely a sucker) but as each melody meanders by in about the same fashion as the last, the album progresses by walking in place.
The Radio Dept.: Clinging to a Scheme
"Heaven's on Fire" just floors me every time. Now with that song hitting a perfect balance of the Radio Dept.'s shoegaze haze, catchy hook-reaching and symphonic punch, where does that leave the rest of Clinging to a Scheme? Well, while never touching the success of "Heaven's on Fire," hooks abound, and the album's thoughtful indie pop is both tonally calming and instrumentally propulsive. When the band settles for reflective mood-setting ("A Token of Gratitude", "Memory Loss") the mix can get a bit drab, but when they dish out poppier offerings ("Heaven's on Fire", "David"), their sonic beauty is breathtaking.
She & Him: Volume 2
Zooey Deschanel & Him. It's hard to separate her public celebrity as a beautiful actress/indie princess from what listeners really get out of She & Him (M. Ward being "Him"). But what helps is the fact that her voice is truly exceptional and fits beautifully in the pleasant, inoffensive folk pop scheme they have crafted for two albums. When she sings "California is a great big nation of one" on "Home," the innocence resonates, and it's that feeling that makes She & Him a rewarding group. That said, She & Him don't throw any curveballs, and while Deschanel's impressive lyrics sound like they were written eons ago, this project has a limited range. So while She & Him is not particularly innovative, if you take it for what it is, it's easy to like.