Review by Shannon Shumaker
Just when you think you have Dastardly's new album, The Hollow figured out, the band throws you another curveball. Carried by airy songwriting, big production and some of the best instrumentation that I’ve heard in years, The Hollow is like an adventure. You never know what you’re going to get next, but whatever it is, it’s going to be stellar. This airy album will float through your speakers with ease, but not to the point where songs don’t stand out.
The first song on The Hollow starts off rather mellow with a pretty drumbeat and some soft “ooh”s, but quickly transitions into a perfect summer track with soft acoustic guitar, orchestral elements, and is that a banjo I hear? There’s so much going on instrumentally in this first song, but never to the point where it becomes overwhelming. “The Hollow” is the perfect mood setter for the rest of the album, as not one instrument (vocals included) outweighs the other. Just when you really start to fall in love with the beautiful instrumentation, this beautiful vocal run comes along about halfway through and evens things out.
With the soft and somewhat airy sound that the band establishes on “The Hollow,” it would be very easy for them to fall into similar songwriting patterns with the rest of the album and write nine songs that all sound the same, but thankfully, that isn’t the case with this album. “Grove,” for instance, starts quiet and light, right where “The Hollow” left off, before progressing into huge drumbeats, group “whoa”s and a chorus that sounds like something right out of Local Natives’ playbook. “Grove” is easily one of the strongest songs on the album simply because of its many moods and sound changes.
“Sailor,” the following track, feels more laid back and psychedelic than “Grove,” proving yet again that Dastardly are absolutely diverse. On the flip side, “Breakdown In New York City” is big and anthematic with many different vocal parts that make the song really fun to listen to. This track also carries a strong drumbeat like in “Grove,” and some very pretty instrumentation. “So Long Ma” is a step away from the rest of the album, with a glitchy electronic sound. The vocals in this track are very dark and raw, also a step away from the smooth poppiness from the tracks preceding it.
That’s the great thing about The Hollow, though. This album does not stay one level or one mood. Instead, each song tells its own story, the strong instrumentation and smart songwriting tying even the most drastic changes in sound together.
Things do seem to wind down quite a bit with “Dangerous,” though. The acoustic song is very strong vocally, but doesn’t quite pack the same punch that many other songs on the album. The same can almost be said for the following track, “St. James Infirmary.” The difference between “Dangerous” and “St. James Infirmary,” though is in the instrumentation. While “Dangerous” is rather simple (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) “St. James Infirmary” begins with a distinctly strong horn part, progressing into some soaring instrumental parts and gorgeous vocal runs, all carried by a strong horn section and some bluesy undertones. “St. James Infirmary,” really speaks for Dasterdly’s versatility, as they swap high energy for soul.
While that energy from the first songs is definitely missed in the end of The Hollow, it’s easily forgotten when you really take notice of how much care this group puts into the songwriting and instrumentation of both “St. James Infirmary” and the final track, “Bridges and Rivers.” Both songs are rather slow and bluesy, but full of soulful strong vocals and soaring instrumentals that are bound to leave you speechless. By the time The Hollow comes to a close with the dark, aggressive “Bridges and Rivers,” it’s almost hard to believe that this is the same band that won your heart with airy, poppy vocals and catchy melodies in “The Hollow” or “Grove.” Dastardly definitely know how to evoke emotions with this release, and they do that do the best of their ability. By the time “Bridges and Rivers” comes to a close, you’ll be itching to listen to The Hollow all over again.
Listen to "Grove" or "St. James Infirmary"