One could call the Dresden Dolls absurd and one would be correct. One could call them elegant and one would also be correct. That’s the thing with the Dresden Dolls- they’re not exactly the easiest band to pigeonhole. They’ve been labeled everything from punk cabaret to theatrical new wave rock. After their triumphant self-titled debut album with quirky and highly unique numbers such as “Girl Anachronism” and “Coin-Operated Boy,” (which was played on rather frequent rotation on MTV2, garnering a growing fanbase) we can do little but throw up our hands and exclaim, “Who cares? They’re brilliant!” The show goes on with Yes, Virginia, their sophomore album.
The duo comprising the Dolls includes Amanda Palmer with her shotgun vocals and playful keyboard chords, and Brian Viglione’s powerhouse percussion and bass. Yes, Virginia marks their second album which celebrates their rise from the underground of alternative punk to their more mainstream welcoming. Compared to its predecessor, this album takes all the cheek and vigor from its last collection of songs and creates an equally energetic and steely symphony of melodic dissonance that they are so revered for. Yes, Virginia audio-winks at each and every listener. The Dresden Dolls’ penchant for black “bleeding-heart” humor doesn’t fail to entertain in each song’s show-and-tell of dreary Tim Burton-esque narrative. With tracks entitled “Mandy Goes to Med School” and “Me & The Minibar,” tongue is set clearly in cheek. Palmer wails and screeches about everything from morning masturbation to Holocaust-denying old women while Viglione rapid-fire drums away with an unmistakably catchy rhythm.
Their ability to create their own brand of rhythm and rhyme places them within their own league of musicians who are bound to be a set point of departure for many imitators and fervent admirers; they are not the sort of band who fades away with the fad. The image of the rich decadence of society and humanity is ingrained onto their album covers, likening to a vaudeville portrait of decaying theaters and sorrowful graphitized hallways and stairwells. The aspect of costume that both Palmer and Viglione dedicate to their performance and persona adds to this vaudeville feel of cabaret and punk. Truly talented story-tellers within their art form, The Dresden Dolls will continue rocking out under their bowler hat, striped stocking guise and Alice in Wonderland repertoire as we follow with eager ears.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.