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Dr. Dog’s seventh album,B-Room, gives fans exactly what they’ve come to love about the Philadelphia-based band over the past fourteen years: dependable and catchy indie-rock. The album features twelve tracks centering around various themes such as heartbreak, travel, and coming of age.
The opening lyrics of “Cuckoo,” the eighth track, perhaps define the album best. Lead vocals growl soulfully over a repetitive guitar riff, “I never really left, I was never gone/I never strayed too far from where I was.” B-Room does not stray far from any previous work Dr. Dog has released, nor does it venture toward any kind of musical experimentation. Clearly, the band has found a formula that works and they stick to it throughout the album. The result is a solid group of folk-rock songs that will appeal to longtime fans and new listeners alike.
The first track, “Truth,” is a mellow opener that sets the tone for many of the songs to come. It’s repetitive, a little bit psychedelic, and manages to be both carefree and thoughtful. The song that follows, “Broken Heart,” stands out as one of the best on the album. It’s groovy beat and popping vocals will get anyone tapping their feet, if not full out dancing. Despite the melancholy-sounding title, lead vocalists Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman sing so cheerfully about “freedom from love” one can practically hear them smiling through the recording.
The band includes some blues-inspired songs as well, most notably “Minding the Usher” and “Too Weak to Ramble.” In the former, a groovy guitar riff sets a laid-back tone reminiscent of the Black Keys. In the latter, the lead vocals stand out, accompanied only by a very soft guitar in the background. Expressive vocals have always been a strength of Dr. Dog, and B-Room doesn’t disappoint when it comes to highlighting their skilled lead vocalists.
Another standout track is “Love,” which sounds like a direct homage to the Beatles and the Beach Boys with its tight harmonies and reverb guitar. Once again, the lyrics deal with gloomy thoughts but are set to a high-spirited tune. The chorus repeatedly questions, “Love/can it last/all my life/as it passes?” Yet the bouncy melody creates a carefree attitude that commands the song and spreads through to the rest of the album.
The title B-Room was taken from the recording studio of the same name in which the album was created. The band turned an old factory in Philadelphia into a studio and living space, and it was there producer Nathan Sabatino helped them record the album live. The resulting sound is organic and honest. No matter what Dr. Dog gets labeled, no one can argue building a studio from the ground up is pretty rock and roll. The band knows this, and on the tenth track they take a moment to reflect on their own experience with the genre: “Who’da known, who’da known, who’da known, who’da known/That it would be rock and roll/That would terrify and eat me/That would haunt me so completely.” The song goes on to recount a series of experiences to which any music fan can relate, and this reliability is what makes B-Room such a success.