Review : Times New Viking - Dancer Equired
PastemagazineThe spastic, ear-needling noise surrounding Times New Viking’s songs has always been hard to justify. Sure, their music has an ornery, almost inhospitable exterior, but the cores of albums like Rip it Off are happily indebted to spontaneous pop — the trio’s glimmering yelps are at once both mangled and ambrosial, and a hell of a lot more disarmed than all the tape-hiss around it.
However, Dancer Equired is probably the most transparent the band has ever sounded. The guitars and vocal channels sail by without any ruptured signals, but they still sound charmingly fragile. It’s the first time the band has sequestered themselves away in a studio, and the time away has seemingly allowed them to focus more on the melodies than the texture. The miniature songs can be genuinely described as pleasant without asterisk. Winsome ballads like “It’s a Culture” and “Ever Falling in Love” take the most space; while honey-dipped power-pop jams like “Fuck Her Tears” serve as the muscle, all with that trademark anti-social shrill nowhere to be found. A few of the songs even make it past the 3-minute mark, which could be considered an epic by lo-fi standards....full text
PitchforkThere were whispers that this might happen four years ago. That was around the time Times New Viking made the jump from Siltbreeze, an outpost for the proudly abrasive and frayed, to Matador, an institution that has flirted with the mainstream since their 1990s heyday. The commercial prospects were curious: How well could they sell a band renowned for dropping hooks behind minefields of growl? Surely, Times New Viking, a trio of art-school grads and Guided By Voices disciples, would clean up their act. They didn't. Their first LP as indie rock big leaguers, Rip It Off, opened with "Teen Drama", a song whose every bar was so distorted, ill-tempered, and flat-out mean, it would have been almost too aggressive to try matching it as the record progressed. They did.
But that record ended up becoming a harbinger of noise to come. 2008 and 2009 saw a slew of young bands exploring pop and punk with comparable verve. The word "lo-fi" became a term nerds could use again to describe new music recorded on a budget, a large swathe of which became dedicated to mellow yellow beach energies, the exact opposite of the confrontational place where Times New Viking found their center. It wasn't just for lack of a studio: They were a band unflinching in its commitment to ensuring its music sound definitively fucked up.
After one more equally gnarled full-length and the longest break between any such release (a startling two years) for the Columbus, Ohio trio, they've left for another landmark label, one run by a bunch of Matador defectors: Merge Records. Dancer Equired marks the end of said break and their debut as part of the Merge family. And, much like a slew of contemporaries who've recently made the switch to cleaner, relatively gussied-up studio recordings (No Age, Smith Westerns, Wavves, Cloud Nothings, and former labelmate Kurt Vile), it's also their first LP without the noise that sheathed their work from the start. While many of those artists have since released their finest work to date by stripping away a lot of the dissonance, the same can't be said of Dancer Equired. Though revealing, this probably wasn't the right set of songs to unveil in the process....full text
OnethirtybpmFor the past six years, Times New Viking has been looking to fuck with their sound any way possible, especially on their past three records. The lo-fi pop-punk of Rip It Off gave way to the higher-fidelity, though still shit-gazey Born Again Revisited. And so it’s no surprise that Dancer Equired, the Ohio trio’s fifth LP and first for Merge, sees Times New Viking maturing to an even cleaner sound, though never completely forfeiting the kill-yr-speakers aesthetic that made them standouts in the lo-fi community.
At first, Dancer Equired comes across as a bit startling. This is the cleanest Times New Viking has ever sounded, though that tends to happen when you have access to a proper studio for the first time. Beth Murphy’s organs are high in the mix, never fighting against Jared Phillips’s comparatively crystal-clear guitar and Adam Eliot’s steady, but almost subdued, drumming. The split vocal duties of Murphy and Phillips now have an added sweetness to them, but they’re never without some creative bite—lyrics get lost in the fuzz, the two often sing with the prolonged tedium of disaffected teenagers, and differing vocal lines overlap like dialogue in a Robert Altman film, an intimacy they manage to create even when they are singing the same words. Remnants of skronk appear throughout Dancer Equired, but this time around Times New Viking tease the listener with warped instruments or lackadaisical, even begrudging, chord changes.
But the melodies and hooks are as strong as ever, and Dancer Equired finds Times New Viking running the gamut of pop punk, lo-fi folk, and mid-tempo ramblers. Opener “It’s A Culture,” “New Vertical Dwelling,” and “Ways To Go” are straightforward, Guided By Voices-like bedroom rockers, inflected with gritty guitar licks, Murphy’s always smooth keys, and just the right amount of snark. Runaway jam, “Fuck Her Tears,” revels in its rushing guitars and shout-out-loud lyrics where half the joy is being able to pick out just a handful of words. But songs like these are scarce. As short as the record is (14 songs in just over 30 minutes), there’s a patience to them. The distorted, lo-fi folk of “No Room To Live” feeds into “Try Harder,” a deliberate, angst-ridden cut where you can feel Phillips forcing his hand to slide between each chord. There’s a woozy steadiness to “Downtown Eastern Bloc,” which shuffles and builds just enough until it peters out into static like a fading high....full text
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