CD Review of Granddance by Dappled Cities
Recommended if you like
Grandaddy, Modest Mouse,
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Label
Speak n Spell
Dappled Cities: Granddance

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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F
eaturing a lead singer whose falsetto wailing reminds one of a bastard spawn of ‘60s novelty singer Tiny Tim and British songstress Kate Bush, Dappled Cities (also known as Dappled Cities Fly) have a sound that that might not be for everyone. Those who can make their way past the slightly unusual and occasionally grating voice of the band’s unique lead singer will be rewarded with a wonderfully quirky and entertaining collection of indie-pop from the land down under.

Those who are more sensitive to atypical vocal ranges will probably be turned off by the first track, “Holy Chord,” which is a shame -- it’s a wonderful and beautiful song that builds to a terrific climax of noise by the end. It’s one of the strongest opening numbers that you’re likely to hear all year. By the end of the song, the wailing that started out so annoyingly becomes something else entirely, and is mesmerizing in its utter oddity.

Dappled Cities

At first the greatness of “Holy Chord” may seem like a false prophet, as the following track, “Fire Fire Fire,” is a drab and somewhat boring and forgettable excursion into alt-pop territory that sounds like a Grandaddy B-side (not surprising, since Jim Fairchild of Granddaddy produced the record) made more monotonous by the suddenly boring vocals of lead singer Tim Derricourt, who removes his falsetto completely and becomes just another alternative rock singer. However, the band quickly recovers from the misstep with “Color Coding,” an oddly paced number that has touches of Barrett-era Pink Floyd mixed in with post-punk synth-rock. Not a combination you hear every day, and a welcome surprise.

Describing other songs on Granddance is not an easy task, as the band successfully absorbs nearly every great form of pop-rock from the past 40 years into the record. Dashes of the Shins are distinctively heard on tracks like “Vision Bell,” but so are OK Computer-era Radiohead (in a good, non-derivative way), the Flaming Lips, and fellow Australian rockers such as Midnight Oil and Split Enz.

Even more surprising are songs like the title track, which occasionally explodes into moments of Phil Spector-esque Wall of Sound production, with synthesizers, samples and other oddball effects colliding with the fantastically weird voice of Derricourt. The band behind the nifty production effects and wacky vocals should not be forgotten, though. The complexity of these seemingly simple little pop songs is surprising. The efforts of the band, especially drummer Hugh Boyce, who manages to maintain some very unique time signatures and beats, should not be ignored.

Delightfully infectious and one of a kind, Granddance is one of the biggest surprises of the year. With the exception of the downer second track, the album is nearly flawless and will undoubtedly grow on anyone who gives it a chance. An easy selection for one of the best records of 2007.

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