Dappled Cities

Chugg Music, 2017


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


On this obviously titled fifth album, Sydney-based Dappled Cities takes the notion of what it means to be a “band” to a whole new level of seriousness, especially considering that they exist in an age of music that is often recorded solitary on a computer. As co-frontman Dave Rennick said in an interview, which jives with his band’s work on ||||| (Five): “…All of these laptop producers. We saw this happening, and well, that’s not us. I see it as a fundamentally different art form, so it leaves us to question, ‘Who are we?’ And the answer really is, we’re a band! And what do bands do? Oh, that’s right, they get into the room with a song and fucking play together and try not to overthink it.”

Five has the aesthetics of ’70s soft rock, which is based on catchy tracks that relied singularly on great songwriting, musicianship, and singing. Or in Rennick’s words, “We were really going deep in that (late-’70s pop rock). I think what drew us to it, it’s music made by bands, and more specifically musicians in the bands.” For all its kinship with ’70s classic rock, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Five does not appear like an album that’s stuck in the past. This is very much a record of the present, touching upon a surprising number of different styles within its retro setting, and it still feels incredibly cohesive.

Opening song “In Light Of No One” is mellow and folksy, with a War On Drugs appeal. The ensuing “Stone Man” is a groovy disco cut with soulful vocals that also sounds very modern at the same time. “That Sound” is also quite dancey, with an immediacy to the vocals and the drumming, that is very ’80s post-punk.

“Weightless” and “Spacechild” are spacey and psychedelic. On the former, Rennick sings primarily with a deep voice, and the song has a David Bowie-esque dramatic feel as it builds up to an explosive ending. The latter cut has a rather Floyd-esque breeziness and sereneness, with Rennick singing in vocal harmony with a falsetto voice.

“Know Your History” and “What Is Impossible” come across as the most ostensibly classic rock on this disc with the combination of gentle and swaying guitar, piano-driven music, and vocals that sound like they could be on classic rock radio. Both these have a true “band” feel, something that is performed by five musicians playing together.

On the other hand, there is the album outlier “Driving Home At Night Alone,” which is best suited for the situation described in its title. As a minimal track with just a floaty synthesizer sound in the backdrop and drums in the foreground, this is more like a cut by a solo bedroom musician than a full-fledged band. Still, “Driving Home At Night Alone” is no less amazing than the rest of Five. In fact, it is one of this record’s best numbers; the hauntingly beautiful vocals are made more powerful by its sparse music.

Even with all its different nuances, Five is a focussed, seamless, and superbly produced album. The only sort of problem that it might have is that it has too many highlights to mention. This sounds a lot like the type of record that Rennick hoped for. Especially in the indie music world where a band coming together and playing is becoming somewhat of a lost art, Dappled Cities shows just how well it is done.

Rating: A-

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