For Dogbreth, Fun Comes First
On the surface, Dogbreth is just another happily unambitious indie-pop band. Their sophomore album Second Home, released August 5th (via Asian Man Records), is loaded with fast and catchy tracks which freely spill into one another. Band leader Tristan Jemsek’s voice is earnest and flat, just like bassist/vocalist Erin Caldwell’s. They sing about heartache and anxiety with complete resignation, and belt lyrics like, “As a kid I felt nervous around (I felt nervous around) adults / And now I’m an adult I feel nervous around (I feel nervous around) my friends.” While these familiar tropes seem to tell the story of another nondescript rock band, something about their simplicity feels deliberate. Over the course of Second Home, there are a handful of moments which bubble up and break the ceiling they’ve imposed on themselves.
The album begins with “Almost Right,” a hard charging ballad about love narrowly missed. The energy of the opener is mostly carried on through the remaining nine tracks, but there are a few notable exceptions. “Monday Night Nitro” is a suppressed ode to the small joys which keep us afloat. “Cool and Blue”, the penultimate track, is aspirational and sincere, devoid of the stormy anxiety which marks much of the album. There are times when you fear Dogbreth has settled into a single gear, but they always manage to make a helpful change or add an unexpected element – a saxophone will drift into the melody, or one of the guitars will pull away for an inspired solo. While the mood generally stays the same, the songs are dynamic in unexpected ways and keep Second Home from stalling out.
The album cover is a minimal collage of simple, sketched images, set against a beige background. It’s artwork that’s playful and crafty without being serious. On the Dogbreth Facebook page, their “Band Interests” section reads, “Lifting weights and solving mysteries”. The “Press” link on their Tumblr page redirects you to a GIF of a pug ferociously licking a window. In other words, they’re here for pleasure, not business – but when you’re producing albums as listenable as Second Home, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone complaining.