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May 4, 2009

This week’s review is Concentration, the anticipated new record from Dog Day.

Dog DayConcentration (Outside/Black Mountain Music, 2009)

The tendency with Dog Day write-ups has always been to compare the band to various other groups that they don’t really resemble in an attempt to situate them. That is understandable to some extent, as, “Here’s a great pop band, you’ll hear why, just listen,” usually (and unfortunately) isn’t a viable pitch in our day and age. The comparisons are of course going on in relation to this, their second LP, but what it really sounds like, if you take the time to actually listen to it, is a group gaining confidence and working their own thing out.

Concentration is close, in many ways, to Night Group, its predecessor, but it is a noticeably different record. Some elements of the group’s sound are brought out further this time. Crystal Thili’s synth playing has more presence within the mix, which is evident straight away. The synth tones sound a bit thicker and are more discernable, adding more to the overall sound right from the opening notes of the record. Also, vocally, Nancy Urich’s presence has increased and is situated further forward in the mix. She also sings more lead parts this time and sounds quite confident doing so, resulting in really great vocal textures alongside Seth Smith’s unique timbre.

As for the songs, they retain all the things that make the other Dog Day records so good: The progressions and vocal lines, the clean, yet slightly ragged sound of the instruments, the curious lyrical aesthetics (not to mention the visuals – that record cover, only shown in part above, is quite something), as well as production touches here and there (inserted sounds, and such). Written by Smith and drummer KC Spidle in the period following the release of Night Group, the songs serve to bolster the Dog Day sound by building on what the group has been doing, while stretching out a bit further. They’re not as fast or immediate as those on previous releases – many track lengths here are extended by at least a minute beyond those on their other records – and they might not grab you fully on first listen, but it’s obvious that they’re trying some new things here and have gained some ground.

Second albums, as you know, sometimes turn out great, and sometimes are a struggle. It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this record is after a few months. Some critics have insinuated that this record doesn’t do much that Night Group didn’t do already, while some have been saying that it’s a great, mature follow up. Ultimately, every group has a framework they work within, and Dog Day show with this release that they have defined a space for themselves, but are interested in moving around in it. There’s an identity being further established here that will serve them well through their next albums.

Does any of this mean that this record will be big? It could, if people are paying attention this time around. The band has been doing the work, on record and on stage, and this latest release points to the fact that if their breakout is on the way, they’re set for it.


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