REVIEW: Dories - Outside Observer

Kelly Kirwan

Dories have taken '60s-inspired pop melodies and given them an atypical, post-punk edge. The Montreal-based four piece have found their niche in discordant melodies and low-key, if not indifferent, vocals—a sub-genre they've personalized and honed on their latest full-length album, Outside Observer. It's an apt title for a band that teeters between being pondering and blasé—kindred spirits to another prefix-dependent movement, post-modernism, in the way they shrug off convention for a more subversive, experimental bent.

Throughout the eleven tracks on Outside Observer, Dories emit a certain degree of intimacy. It's a plucky, do-it-yourself aesthetic, which makes it seem as if they’re a few feet in front of us in some quirkily-furnished basement, grandparental tchotchkes all around. It's not an amateurish vibe, just a spinoff of punk's underground, unfiltered persona. The vocals are often secondary to the bait-and-switch chord progressions, a hollow drawl rolling listlessly off the tongue, and on certain songs singing is absent entirely. Take the album's opener, "Pitt Hill Mine," which gently unfolds over the course of (roughly) one minute. It's a surprisingly subdued and minimalist track, drawn out in a low timbre. It's evocative of a muted, deep-sea sonar, a 77-second plunge into a vast expanse that feels both desolate and peaceful. It's a soothing springboard for us to begin with, before diving in to the more hurried pinwheel of tempos ahead.

Later on, we encounter "Arms & Legs," which even band member Josef McGuin admitted was difficult to perform at first. It’s a track that hits the ground running, with a repeated guitar twang keeping pace over a buoying drum set. For a song that clocks in at just under three minutes, the melody gives an impression of metamorphosis—it’ll rev up the percussion and then cut it out entirely, giving us a (comparatively) leisurely interlude based around twirling guitar notes. Then the drums come barreling in again, and once more we're propelled forward into a landscape that switches with the ease of a dreamscape. Woven somewhere among the beat, we hear Dories' signature monotone, "You’re talking less about where we are and your parents thoughts," with the later assurance, "You’re OK". These lyrics flutter lightly against the instrumental frenzy, and so they feel somehow subconscious. But they certainly linger.

For all the various genres and barely-subdued cacophony I’ve just described, Dories' songs are impressively succinct (the longest one lasts just over four minutes). They’ve managed to pick apart and repurpose elements of jangle pop, punk, and math rock into their own unique sound, and in the midst of all these references have carved out an identity that leaves a hell of an impression.