Photo by Julia Leiby
Dove Lady’s debut album, One, plays like a thirty-song greatest hits album that was condensed into nine freewheeling, hook-packed tracks. Jeremy Ray and AJ Thawley, the duo behind Dove Lady, dance around the idea of genre, switching from post-rock to punk rock to alternative jazz within two-to-three minute tracks.
Opener “7777” kicks the album off with a violent thrashing, but over the first two-thirds of the track, it corrodes through slower and slower breakdowns before reversing itself and speeding back up. You get the impression that you’ve listened to about five songs with distinct hooks in two minutes, and that phenomenon means the nine songs that compose One almost feel like twenty.
One excels in ducking around expectations. A twitchy, funky introduction suddenly cedes way to a beachy jazz riff decorated with flowery harmonized vocals on “Carl Salesman.” That’s replaced by a guitar shredding exhibition that is desperately trying to escape a rhythm the drums are trying very hard to respect. By the time the song closes with a hardcore breakdown, it seems like, as a listener, you should be unsurprised by whatever comes next.
But, thrillingly, that moment of met expectation is never delivered, as even the spasticity of the first three songs of One is subverted. The alt-rocky “Uplifting Song” doesn’t dance around its hook – “it’ll all be okay!” It taps into an intoxicating ‘90s indie aesthetic and leans into its catchiness, which is to say Dove Lady is rarely oblique simply for the sake of being clever on One.
For a record that’s so quick to switch lanes, One carries a significant emotional weight. On standout “What’s Wrong Roberta,” there’s a heaviness that offers context to the rest of the album. “Barely hanging on / To the thing you want / When did it get so hard?” drips with disappointment and resignation, but the guitar that frames the lyrics teems with a nervous energy. That dichotomy plays well across the whole album, creating tension that is usually resolved with style, like in the blazing outro of “Roberta.”
Dove Lady is surefooted in their riskiness on their debut, and One is consequently a dazzling listen. There is no hedging in their experimentation, but no hook is left on the cutting floor either. The District would do well to give Dove Lady its attention – the band deserves it.