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Old School Twist of Fate: Dr. Dog takes lo-fi to a high level


It's back to the coal mine for Dr. Dog...that's what a hit record will get ya.
  • It's back to the coal mine for Dr. Dog...that's what a hit record will get ya.
It's back to the coal mine for Dr. Dog...that's what a hit record will get ya.Dr. Dog

Fate ★★★★✩

Park the Van Records

Sometimes, the newest music sounds old, and you like it even more just for that express reason. Such is the case with Fate, an 11-track collection of rustically poppy cuts from Philadelphia quintet Dr. Dog that sounds like it needs that fuzzy LP hiss between tracks to sound complete.

Dr. Dog are just now gaining mainstream attention, and it was actually their previous record We All Belong that brought them to the forefront and to stages at festivals all over the country. Fate is the band's fifth studio release and is marked by a quintessentially old stlye that is more or less intentional, at least from a technical standpoint. Like few bands in their generation or the generation above them, for that matter, Dr. Dog still records on actual tape. That's right, they are actually rolling tape as opposed to settling for tossing all their tracks onto a hard drive to be tuned and twisted with space-age technology into pop gold.
Whereas a band like My Morning Jacket (who actually brought the band on tour in their fledging days) has burst through with a throwback album (Evil Urges) that benefits from present-day wizardry, Dr. Dog is strangely authentic in their approach to harkening old time sounds. Fate is one of few records in recent memory where one can say, "that sounds like something off of Sgt. Pepper's" and actually be somewhat accurate in his or her assessment. At other times, Dr. Dog might conjure some thoughts of The Band's Dylan years, especially on songs like "Hang On."

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The album opens with "The Breeze," a track that creeps along at first with Scott McMicken's slightly airy voice spouting the record's opening lyrics: "Are you moving much too fast?/And the good times that just don't last." This is the first taste of a deeply introspective theme that runs throughout Fate and is more indicative of hippie folk than indie rock - both of which are genres in which the band is placed and from which it draws fans. About a minute and a half into "The Breeze," Toby Leaman's bass walks into the cut, followed closely by Juston Stens' drums, thus debuting a bubbly, near-Beach-Boy pop thread that runs through much of the album.

"The Rabbit, The Bat & the Reindeer" arrives mid album to most exemplify the band's Beatles likeness, mostly in its quirkiness. Here, they run the risk of coming off intentionally and overly goofy, and sometimes they do, which might be the biggest knock on this record, but far more often than not, the quintet pulls it off.

Not only do they pull it off, but they actually sound natural in what they're doing -as if these children of the '90s make music that just so happens to sound so delightfully lo-fi as to be mistaken for mid-'60s pop rock. - Mike Bookey

Rolling with Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog's sound has been compared, and it's worth saying, favorably, to The Beatles. And it's been a long and winding road for this amorphous group from Philly. While the band has only recently hit the national radar, it's recording history stretches back to 2001's Psychedelic Swamp. But they first started gaining momentum when they toured with My Morning Jacket in 2004 and a flattering review from the New York Times soon followed. The recognition earned them opening spots for alt stars like The Strokes, Black Keys and the Raconteurs. But their crowning achievement, at least in our eyes, is a headlining slot at last year's Lebowski Fest in Louisville. Now we got a frame of reference. (REJ)

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