April 24, 2011

Album Review: Times New Viking's Dancer Equired


Alongside Jay Reatard, No Age and Wavves, Times New Viking were at the epicenter of indie rock's lo-fi renaissance when the noise pop genre made its presence known in 2008. Their breakthrough, Rip It Off, arguably polarized listeners (coining the term "shitgaze" from its detractors) due to how the Columbus, OH trio were far more lo-fi happy than their counterparts to release music under ear-blistering, fuzzy conditions. On their fifth LP, Dancer Equired, Times New Viking opt to upgrade production value by recording the album on VHS inside of an actual studio instead of a cassette at home, which in turn gives your eardrums a considerable break from a high-decibel assault of distortion. Without the mask of lo-fi hiss to veil their musicianship, it's now Times New Viking's chance to prove themselves as something original with nothing to hide. What is realized on Dancer Equired, however, is that without it, they're more eager to satisfy seminal influences than deliver the authentic youthfulness that made them a much-buzzed about band to begin with. Opener, "It's a Culture," alongside "No Room to Live" and "Downtown Eastern Bloc" are winks back to late '90s / early 2000s-era Yo La Tengo, moving along casually and conveying a subdued autumnal feel that contrasts the rougher edges on past work (Note: Times New Viking spent time on the road over the past two years opening for Yo La Tengo, so the rubbing off of their influence was inevitable.) "Ever Falling In Love" and "Try Harder" goes back further into the indie rock history books by hinting back to late '80s lo-fi staple, The Vaselines. Here, Times New Viking lay off the distortion pedals and interweave vocal exchanges between Jared Philips and Beth Murphy amid swelling chamber pop keyboards. It ultimately results in uncharacteristically slow curbs on Dancer Equired that drown out the few spunky rippers that the noise pop trio became known for ("Ways to Go," "Fuck Her Tears.") Overall, Dancer Equired is okay to an extent where it wears its influences well, but it does little to distinguish itself from its veteran peers' work. All bands look to the past for inspiration, but Times New Viking need to figure out how to reconcile their sound if they don't want to depend on an obtuse amount of lo-fi production to cover up the obvious.


Times New Viking's Dancer Equired will be released April 26, 2011 on Merge Records.

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