So many people are starting to base their listening on songs these days, such is the reduction in attention spans, the proliferation of YouTube browsing and the ease of compiling ones own playlists featuring the best stuff you want to hear. Separate to my Top 50 LPs of 2011 I’ve also put together a list of songs that caught my ears and became hard to shake. There were of course dozens of others that could be included here but this is a lucky dip of sorts into some of my favourite tunes of 2011 that might lead you further into the artist’s work if you havent checked them out yet…
It is somewhat unavoidable when it comes to making comparisons between the new Dick Diver and Twerps albums as both have been released at the same time on Melbourne’s Chapter Music and both share a style that strongly echoes the music being made in New Zealand and particularly Dunedin in the 1980s. Variously the ghost of The Bats, The Clean, The Chills and from farer afield Television and Pavement all cast a shadowy veil across the LP. Twerps have taken a woollier and more organic approach with their album while Dick Diver are a shade grittier in their textures and quietly muscular and explorative in their delivery.
Guitars chime and jangle all over this debut record and yet it never descends into aimless noodling. There are clear and succinct arrangements that only allow the necessary requirements to be included. Opener Through The D tumbles and rolls along with gorgeous sparkling notes dotting the primitive rhythm section like sunspots. Hammock Days is a lazy sunday afternoon Sonic Youth jam in terms of the guitars that introduce the song while they can still lift the intensity as they do to stunning effect on the six minute centre-piece and Neil Young-esque sonic epic Flying Teatowel Blues. There is little in the way of flash and overplayed hands in anything the quartet do and that is what makes the whole LP such an intimate treat.
Vocally Dick Diver are on a downbeat, backseat trip. Everything is lazily delivered, slightly off tune (in a good way) and often on the verge of descending into slacker-toned spoken word. It suits the subject matter perfectly as they sing about things like moving town, concluded relationships, hanging out and getting your shit together. The standout track is On The Bank. It works lyrically, melodically and has a melancholic feel that just buries itself in your memory bank. They throw some slide guitar into the mix and imbue the song with swelling and retreating dynamics that make you just want to hit repeat the second it finishes. Elsewhere the bass line and mantra groove of Head Back is a highlight as are moments in every other song across the record.
Sonically the production on New Start Again perfectly complements their music. Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring/Total Control is the man behind the sound and he has done well to capture a warm, lush recordings without sacrificing the unfettered way the band play their instruments. You can hear fingers on strings, the rattles in the kit and it feels like a band in a room rather than a constructed group of audio layers. This is honest music played with minimal fuss and it holds the listeners attention across all ten tracks – a testament to the strength of Dick Diver’s writing and compositional restraint.