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Ears & Fingers 1/2/14

On the Horizon: Drive-By Truckers-English Oceans
Let me preface this by saying that I really like the Drive-By Truckers. They have longevity, and have proven that they are stronger than their individual members by surviving the departure of arguably their most talented songwriter, Jason Isbell. The band’s particular brand of southern-fried rock stands out from others as always being introspective and honest, while being raucous and feverishly loud. They are always very consistent in putting out new music. If nothing else at this point, the Drive-By Truckers are very good at being the Drive-By Truckers.

On their tenth studio album, the band promised a return to form in an interview with Rolling Stone late last year. All in all they have delivered on that promise. “English Oceans” is archetypal DBT, as songs include politics, drinking, mental illness, religious imagery and doomed relationships interspersed over layered guitars, upbeat rhythms and the back and forth of dual vocalists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. The album drips of the Southern rock appeal the band are known for. However, the album is not all high points. There are times where it seems to drag, and it becomes tedious to stay wrapped up in across the 13 songs that clock in at just over an hour. That is not to say there aren’t some gems and songs that will live on in the bands remarkably extensive catalog. Absolute high point for me is ‘Grand Canyon,’ the album’s somber closer, which was written for a crew member who passed away last January and spins an expansive tale of loss in true DBT style. Longtime and new fans of the band will find plenty to sink their teeth into with this release, but if you need a starting point, you should really go back to “Decoration Day” or “The Dirty South.” “English Oceans” is out March 4 via ATO Records.

If You Haven’t Heard: Dum Dum Girls
What started as just a home recording project for lead Dum Dum Girl, Dee Dee Penny, has since garnered a lot of attention and success. 2014 seems to have nothing less in store for the band. This year will see the release of “Too True,” the ladies’ third long player for Sub Pop Records and the follow-up to 2011’s “Only in Dreams.” This album is another notch in the belt of an already impressive underground career.

Late in 2013, we got the track ‘Lost Boys and Girls Club,’ the catchy, upbeat, new wave tinged first single from the upcoming album, which deals with the heavy themes of confronting the past and then deciding that it is best left where it is while moving on. This track carries weight and is hopefully a good signifier of the album.

Another reason to delve into the Dum Dum Girls is a similar artist who used to exist within their ranks. Frankie Rose stepped down as the band’s drummer and back up vocalist to pursue a successful solo career. 2013 saw the release of her album “Herein Wild,” a hazy, dream pop gem, complete with a stellar cover of The Damned’s ‘Street of Dreams.’

I would suggest acclimating yourself with both acts because they are here to stay, and it seems like there are great things ahead this year, specifically for the Dum Dum Girls, as “Too True” is expected to be a very strong release. Look for Dum Dum Girls on the road supporting “Too True,” and pick up a copy when it is released on Jan. 28 via Sub Pop Records.