The use of electronics in music tends to go one of two ways. It can either be so overwhelming that, unless you love the use of electronics, it is far too much. Or, it can add amazing depth to create something really great. One of the best shows I ever attended featured Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. It was held at a minor league baseball stadium in the Bronx. I had a love for Sigur Ros and a respect for Bjork; however, I was so blown away by Bjork that she quickly became a favorite. Aside from the fun outfits, stringed instruments, and fire/fireworks, there were two men doing her electronics. I distinctly remember two instances when I was amazed by what they were doing. At one point, one of the men had small microphones attached to his hands. He began to create a sound by running his hands through the other man’s hair. In the other instance, one of them had microphones attached to his feet. He shuffled his feet rhythmically in the sand to create sound. After seeing the amazing potential of electronics added by these two gentlemen, I knew I would never write off the use of electronics again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is definitely a band that enjoys their use of electronics. Hailing from the city of Detroit, Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott got together to form a band they classify as more pop than indie. Of course, they don’t label themselves as anything getting played on the radio. Don’t expect to find them opening up for Ke$ha any time soon, but they would like to think that their music can connect with a large amount of the population. Releasing you first album on Atlantic records can’t hurt when you hope to reach a large group of people.
Dale Jr. Jr. doesn’t have a NASCAR obsession or anything. From what I’ve read they don’t even watch the “sport”; however, it’s easy to be fooled since they are seen many times wearing NASCAR racing suits while on stage. Evidentially, they really were just tossing around names that they thought people would be comfortable and interested in listening to. They even went as far as to write the driver and see what he had to say about their band’s name. He was very approving and stated that he really liked their music. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that Counting Crows 2 was a close second for potential band names.
Listening to the first full length from Dale Jr. Jr. provides a wide variety of different styles of songs. The first song on the album “Morning Thought” has a drum beat that is easily identifiable as the backbone of the song. From there, most of the other instruments give you a plethora of other things to listen to. There is plenty of layering using the guitar, keyboard, electronics, and harmonizing vocals. You could listen to this song a few times through and alway pick something new out. The vocals keep a pretty similar pitch throughout; however, the harmonizing really brings a full sound on the chorus. It is no wonder they need to hire a backing band on tour. There is no way two people could do enough on stage to produce this sound.
There are some fun danceable songs on this album as well. “An Ugly Person on a Movie Screen” is a fun dancy tune driven by a catchy drums and bass line. “Vocal Chords” begins with some very ambient harmonizing vocals; however, the bass and funky guitar line lead you into the dance feel. I really like this track as it shows both the fun and serious side of this band. However, you definitely have to like some falsetto singing to like chorus. The album’s title song, “It’s a Corporate World” , has a very Vampire Weekend feel. It has a quick tempo, light mood, and a singable chorus. I could definitely see a room full of hipsters boping around chanting this one out.
Dale Jr. Jr. definitely creates some of its best music when it slows it down for their more quiet and reflective songs. “If It Wasn’t You” has some really ambient harmonizing taking place combined with soft instruments and music. I believe I even hear a harp in there somewhere. There is a little strange electronic noise throughout that my wife claims sounds like a rodent running across the floor; however, I don’t quite catch that. “The Fisherman” has some of the best harmonizing on the album. The music also seems to have the least going on with it. You can catch a guitar, a little light electronics, and even a saw violin in there as well. A little heavier bass does come in to bring the tempo up, but it still keeps its cool and calm demeanor.
One of my favorite songs on the album is actually a cover. They do their own version of the late Gil Scott-Heron’s “We Almost Lost Detroit”. The duo are given the opportunity to not only pay homage to their city, but also, to a man who did a lot for the music industry. This is definitely the closest song to an actual rock anthem on the album. It has some real fuzzy guitars and a driving rhythm that is easy to get caught up in.
Overall I really enjoy this album. I will have to admit that it took me quite a few listens, and a little prompting from a coworker, to get into this album; however, I would have to say that these guys are going to have a big career. They have some great ideas on how to compose songs, and they apparently put on a great live show. If you’re looking for something new, I would definitely check these guys out. There’s a really good chance they only continue to blow up.
Teacher Grade: B+