Dr. Dog: Critical Equation
Philadelphia indie darlings Dr. Dog never fully went away—but, with Critical Equation, they are by all means back. Their modern take on vintage Kinks-esque psych-rock was on the rise through the 2000s, peaking with the crystalline Shame, Shame in 2010. But subsequent albums—most recently the quietly released, lovely lo-fi Abandoned Mansion —showed enjoyable, yet diminishing returns. Critical Equation seems to split the difference between their earlier bright, glistening indie-pop and the darker, more soulful music of late. Guitarist/co-frontman Scott McMicken’s spoken of being in “a totally new band” this time out. Don’t expect a truly reinvented Dr. Dog, but this is their first record in years to generate that giddy spark that fans first adored. It all kicks off with the gently mischievous “Listening In,” McMicken wondering aloud: “I can hear the animals talkin’ and they ain’t talkin’ to me/ Are they talkin’ to you?” Right away, the wide-eyed wonder that defined their sound for so many years is back, here paired with twilight keyboards and a melody so straightforwardly catchy it could be a nursery rhyme. Singer Toby Leaman, the band’s more rocking songwriter, is also in fine form: “True Love” is kitchen-sink folk bundled together with a tight, punchy hook, and winking lyrics: “They say that love is blind, but you look good to me.” Dr. Dog never abandoned their psych-pop style but, with Critical Equation , they’re clearly having more fun poking around and creating some magic just for the sake of discovery. In the gorgeous, rollicking “Buzzing in the Light,” Leaman kicks his feet up, singing, “I’m not alone in the mystery—I feel at home in the mystery.” We’re happy he’s back.