Each song on Martin Dosh’s fifth album, Tommy—named for a dead friend—makes its math-jazz drums and instrumental fragments groove together like a coil of freshly exposed but healthy innards. Chattering vocal harmonies nudge aside the percussive clatter that begins “Subtractions,” and yields to a whirl of synth and guitar hooks until each component is humming busily against the next. Though he does a lot of work alone with a mountain of gear (and his collaborators play everything from sax to pedal-steel), Dosh never clogs Tommy with aimless texture. Even the whirrs and clonks behind “Airlift” make sense in the bigger dynamic picture—they swell up between the keyboard lines, or poke at the bass’ funky stroll. The conflicting melodies within Mike Lewis’ piano chords on “Loud” prove how much Dosh’s songwriting can lift emotions when stripped down and slathered in J.T. Bates’ ride cymbals.
Until the eight-and-a-half-minute closer “Gare De Lyon,” Tommy leaves open the question of whether Dosh can build his ideas into epics, instead of so graciously compacting them. The album’s final distorted bass chords pound away the relative modesty of standouts like “Call The Kettle” and “Town Mouse.” Tommy doesn’t aim to dazzle like 2008’s Wolves And Wishes or 2006’s The Lost Take; instead, it focuses all its tech-wizardry on some of the most vulnerable, exultant melodies Dosh has captured yet.