I remember the surprise I felt when I first learned that Washington, DC has a history of fostering an influential punk and hardcore scene. To me, the nation’s capital meant pristine monuments and the respectable act of governance (ha). It was thrilling to learn that under all that marble, people had been airing their feelings and making noise.
Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray live in DC, and their band, Dove Lady, shows signs of the post-hardcore scene from which it sprung. Their latest album, One—the first full-length after a series of alphabetized EPs, A, B, C, and D—begins with an explosive oscillation of fuzzy guitar. Drums come in, crashing wildly, and the vocals emerge as a monotone yelp. The start of the opener, “7777,” promises to deliver on the DC legacy. Soon, though, Dove Lady pulls back. “7777” morphs several times, changing from the harsh pulse of punk guitar to smoother, quieter modes and back again.
Punk is only one edge of Dove Lady’s experimental territory on One. Throughout the album, they transition from post-hardcore to jazz, and even to a moment of R&B smoothness on “Carl Salesman.” And when they do get loud, the duo never fully loses control. Rhythmic and tight all the way through, they only skirt the edges of chaos before dissolving into calm—a move that's as exciting as total mayhem. Dove Lady are masters of tension and release.
Such mood swings happen not only in the sound, but also in the lyrics. “In essence,” Dove Lady said in an interview with GoldFlakePaint, “One is about accepting and forgiving one’s self for all of life’s mistakes; it is a sonic representation of moving on from the past and into the present.” Naturally, that is a fraught process. The album reflects that in moments of anxiety: “I'm scared of the way that you might look at me If you hear what I’m thinking / I’m tired of uncertainty,” they sing on “What’s Wrong Roberta,” and “Sometimes I get so lonely and I don’t know” on “Carl Salesman.” For all of its musical trickery, One’s sentiments are delightfully earnest.
And Dove Lady is never more delightful and earnest than in the moments of catharsis that lend the album a feeling of simultaneous gravity and lightness. “It’s time / Won’t be long / ‘Til I’m comfortable,” they sing over a catchy guitar melody in the appropriately named “Uplifting Song.” At the end, the track reaches a satisfying release with the line, “It’ll all be ok.” And just as One begins with the roar of guitar, it ends with another loud statement. “Anything that I want / I can get if I try,” they sing on the closing track, “Boar Switch,” before the instruments and vocals swell, coming closer to spilling over into chaos than anywhere else on the album.
A product of their city but with a strong sense of their own sound, Dove Lady makes music how they want to.