Monday, June 16, 2014

REVIEW: Dignan Porch - Observatory

Let's start out with a spoiler -- Observatory may contend for inclusion of one of the top jangle pop/psychedelic albums of the year in my book.  It was created by Dignan Porch, purveyors of a sound so laid back that it is tempting to underestimate them, and I'll confess to having allowed them to drift from memory a few months after discussing their fine 2012 album Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen.  But perhaps now a reconsideration is in order, as this gang is not only talented but, I suspect, ambitious.  At least ambitious in the sense that they are willing to push the limits of their music, if not achieve world domination.  At the end of the day, however, we measure success for bands not in terms of ambition, but it terms of quality output.  And Observatory shines brightly on that scale.

To me, the secret to this album's charm is the right balance between excellent, and sincere, songwriting and a first-take feel to its performances.  Nothing is too glossy or over practiced, but it holds together enough for the quality to be evident.  One could get lost, and risk looking foolish, trying to categorize the predominant style, but being both brave and foolish, I'll venture that there is a lot of '90s guitar pop and '60s/early '70s psychedelic guitar pop with a touch of country rock.  It starts out with the pulsing, rhythm-heavy, semi-funky "Forever Unobscured", which is followed by the guitar-focused  "Deep Deep Problem".  Both tracks share a sing-along quality to the vocals which adds an element of warmth.  The third track, "Veil of Hze", is a lovely acoustic track with a mysterious vocal refrain. The fourth and fifth tracks, "No Lies" and "Between the Trees" venture into chugging guitar territory (the latter is especially nice).  Then comes one of the standout tracks, "Wait & Wait & Wait", which sounds like a California guitar pop nugget that could have been harvested from late Byrds recording sessions.  "Harshed" features a heavier, psychedelic sound.  The psychedelic feel continues through "I Plan to Come Back", but for "Dinner Tray" the band dials back to a jangling folk rock groove.  "A Warm Welcome to Hell" jangles, and "Got to Fly" adds some twang and pace to the jangle, making for one of the better tunes of the latter third of the album.  The sum of it all is a very satisfying album that should command your time as you relax this summer.

Dignan Porch started as a solo bedroom project of founder Joseph Walsh, and still adheres to the DIY ethos.  In addition to Joseph Walsh, the members are Sam Walsh (lead guitar), Ben Goodwin (bass), and Hayley Akins (keys, vocals).  The drums on the album were played by Luke Walsh, who also is a member of Old Forest.  The drums for live performances currently are played by Philippa Bloomfield.

Observatory is available today in digital and vinyl formats via Brighton label Faux Discx.

Bandcamp for album
Faux Discx

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