Certain artists like Dr. Dog have a knack for producing what I call feel-good music, tunes that cheer you up no matter what kind of mood you’re in. You could be having the lousiest day of your week, but throw on some Dr. Dog and you’re bound to crack a smile. The Pennsylvania-based band’s newest album, B-Room, is slower and more stripped down than past albums, but it is consistent in its ability to make you see the glass as half full.
No particular genre can define the sound of Dr. Dog. With a sound that fuses psychedelic/indie/folk rock, the band finds a way to combine rock organ, thumping bass, twangy banjo and harmonic backing vocals flawlessly. B-Room is all about breaking out of one’s comfort zone, and the band takes a big step to do so musically. All of the familiar elements and sounds still exist, but many of the songs take on a slower tempo than on albums past, allowing lyricist Toby Leaman to effectively preach about various life revelations. On “Distant Light,” he sings of the endless pursuit of an elusive dream, in this case, the distant light. He realizes, “I know if I keep walking, I’ll never touch it / But as long as I move it’ll shine down on me”. Accompanied by uplifting piano chords and melodies, the lyrics promote the never-give-up attitude that Leaman presumably embodies.
“Minding the Usher” has a new-age blues sound that would make The Black Keys proud. The beat is simple yet staggered, and the balance between their signature organs chiming in over several slick guitar riffs makes for a combination perfect for a little grooving action. “Long Way Down” is all about becoming overwhelmed by love. Leaman feels helpless, singing, “I fell asleep around quarter to four / I had a dream my baby didn’t want me no more / I was drowning in a sea of love / I was swallowed up by the water above.” The horn instrumentals at the start of “Long Way Down” are reminiscent of by The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”—energetic and scattered initially but necessary for tying the song together later on. The rumble of distorted bass flows perfectly with the horns in one of the better songs on the album.
While in the past they would record albums during a multitude of demo sessions, Dr. Dog took a different approach when producing B-Room. In a converted silversmith-mill-turned-recording space, Dr. Dog was able to collaborate as a group during recording much more so than ever before. The result is an organic sound that is a step above anything else the band has created up to this point.
4 out of 5 stars