Rarely does an album so clearly of two minds work. The shift in tone is too great, or the styles just don’t mesh well; one way or another it crumbles under the weight of its own cleverness. Somehow Dastardly have managed to make 9 songs that don’t seem to fit together flow seamlessly on The Hollow.
There’s some consistency at the beginning, with the opening title track pulling a dark cloud over the album. The slow shoegaze-y atmosphere sticks around for a couple songs before Dastardly creeps back to some of their old ways. And that is in no way a bad thing. With their last two releases being pretty short, I was hoping some of that sound would find its way into this one.
“Breakdown In New York City” reminds me a lot of the criminally underrated Ballads In Blue from a couple years ago. There are some new wrinkles added, but it could’ve easily been a track rehearsed but not recorded in those sessions. Lead singer Gabe Liebowitz delivers a beautiful and vulnerable vocal performance enhanced by Sarah Morgan’s harmonies.
I’m not generally one for lauding covers, but the horn work on Dastardly’s version of “St. James Infirmary” is fantastic. The soft guitar flourishes with little bits of clarinet woven through sets a very specific mood in my mind. That mood is exactly the same one I get from the absolutely brilliant 1979 Tom Waits Austin City Limits broadcast. Not sure if that’s what they were going for, but it works so well I’m just gonna assume that it was.
The Hollow is deliberate, but never boring. It rewards those who listen to it all at once. The feeling is almost like a mental breakdown-the first few songs hold together pretty well, but the further you go the more things get shaken loose and start flying in every direction. This is certainly how I would recommend experiencing the record.
If you’re in the Chicago area, Dastardly will be playing a release show at Lincoln Hall on July 10th with Gold Web and Oshwa. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here.