Listening to a new band offers a different challenge than catching up with a familiar group. For me, there's a mix of gut vs. brain response. The gut feels the flutter of anticipation, the hope for something surprising and new, and the emotional response to the songs. On the intellectual side, it ranges from the OCD-driven need to pattern match, guessing at influences and identifying the musical styles to recognizing the quality of the writing and playing. Some bands satisfy purely on the gut level, (e.g. "snotty boys with guitars") while others blow me away with technique.
Dinosaur Bones' debut album, My Divider (due out March 8) piques both sides. The album shows off a bi-polar collection of songs, which bounce from introverted brooding to manic, extroverted thrashing. The surprise is that this flows fairly smoothly, without jarring. At the same time, Dinosaur Bones skips through a number of genres as they maintain a unified sound based on interesting chord progressions and open song arrangements. On the first listen, each song was a little surprise. Later visits solidified my appreciation for how they assembled the album.
My Divider starts off with a moody, British post-punk feel. Making Light and Sharks in the Sand each feature an emotional delivery and subtle guitar work that recall the Smiths. Even with languid lyrics about being unmoored or misunderstood, the mood is way too upbeat to compare directly with Morissey, but the inward focus is similar.
On the other side of the spectrum, Hunters takes a beginning section saturated with a low fi swarm of sound and punches it into a tight, alt-rocker. By turns post-punk and garage rock, it was a wake up call that contrasted with the more restrained start. Swirls of noise fill out the sonic space of the song.
From that point, My Divider freely mixes things up. The rockers hit my sweet spot more often, but the album's flow helped by setting them up. Strong tracks include the post-punk edge of Point Of Pride (great energy and dynamics), the lush bombast of Highwire Act, and the updated Clash chank of Royalty (with touches of The Guns of Brixton). Royalty is the first single, download it here.
My heart and my head both like My Divider. It's a strong debut and Dinosaur Bones shows promise for more musical depth as they mature. Even though the band is from Toronto, the strong British feel makes me crave a cask conditioned IPA.