>So what’s my motivation here?

>Tonight’s blog is about concept albums. It always tends to make my heart sink when I hear the news that a band I have grown fond of  announce their latest record is a concept album. It might be considered blasphemy but I consider Dark Side of the Moon downright pompous and it seems for many to be the benchmark for concept albums. However despite this doom laden intro there have actually been some pretty damn fine concept albums. Here are five, with a brief description of the concept and a song to get your teeth into. The format seems to be increasing in popularity with major releases in the last year from Arcade Fire and Janelle Montae offering their own interpretations of the concept album formula. I’d love to know your opinions so it’d be just the ticket if you posted your comments below.

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>Awful name, decent band

>Just a short little blog – it’s been a tough week back at the schoolhouse and I’m cream crackered. I thought I’d share a little review of the recent album from Philadelphia indie band Dr. Dog. Here goes…

Dr. Dog – Shame, shame

 I heard about this band through passing comments on a couple of blogs and after listening to a few tracks from their back catalogue thought I’d give their latest offering the blog treatment. Dr. Dog are a band who haven’t really made a significant mark in the music world. They have been a group who are easy to like but seem to lack that special spark which makes you love them. In fact in recent years they have received criticism for sounding increasingly polished and having diminishing soul. This is a hugely difficult slide to arrest – if you are happy and content what is there to write about without sounding offensively smug? On this latest effort they have made a conscious effort to amp up the emotional content and reaffirm that connection. So do they succeed? Perhaps surprisingly they do. Lyrically there is a new freshness and a darker tone pervades the album creating a markedly different feel from the quirky, breeziness of previous offering Fate. For a borderline psychedelic indie times at this on this record they plunge deep into country territory which fuels the personal story telling approach. ‘Station’ is a glorious ode to touting which whilst lamenting the repetition recognises the comfortable security of consistent affirmation of your art. ‘Jackie wants a black eye’ could easily be a Bright Eyes album track were it not for the absence of the trademark Oberst cracked delivery. Vocally this is a really interesting sound, harmonies often drive the melody of the music not unlike Crosby, Stills, etc. Dr. Dog operate the duel vocalist approach to good effect – though lacking the bite and frission of Gomez for example. The 60s pop-rock comparisons are less relevant on this album though it would be incorrect to claim a dramatic new direction has been taken. One issue I do take with the album is the odd insistence on fading tracks out abruptly and clumsily. This could perhaps be a product of the uneven nature of the album – a handful of tracks had been written and set aside over the years – and it doesn’t quite work together as a cohesive piece. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be of great concern, but it is when a band is looking to stimulate an emotional connection with the listener. I couldn’t help but feeling that Leaman and McMicken set out with the intention of creating a Richmond Fontaine record yet couldn’t bring themselves to entirely leave the old habits aside. The result is an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable album.

Five out of Ten

(Skip to 4:05 for the performance)