Dr. Dog: Fate

The market seems just about perfect for Dr. Dog's fifth album: Fate is logical kin to Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, Fleet Foxes, and other recent attempts to reboot slacker Americana for people who don't know or care about The Band. The opener "The Breeze" captures everything good about the Philadelphia band: an easy opening verse undercut ever-so-slightly by a little tape warping, then the steady introduction of dueling two-part harmonies, finally settling into an easygoing percussion groove, rounding out the finale with fugal woodwinds wrapping around each other. Where other bands would be content to settle into a simple plod, these ambitious studio brats repeatedly make things hard on themselves: "The Old Days" features Levon Helm drums to start, but breaks through halfway into stride piano, then double-time 'til the end. Like smarter traditionalists, Dr. Dog makes the familiar strange—though not as strange as a few albums back, when stabbing dissonant guitars were still an option. It's weird to hear a band which was never that abrasive to begin with further smoothing the edges, and it doesn't help that the lyrics are getting pretty silly: "From" is catchy, but it also involves the phrase "choo-choo train," which no one above kindergarten age should have to sing. Still, it's adult and musically complex enough to pick up the slack.

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