Album Of The Week: All Dogs Kicking Every Day
This is a big, big week for new albums. It’s so big, in fact, that two of this week’s releases, the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness and Beach House’s Depression Cherry, got Premature Evaluations and thus disqualified themselves from Album Of The Week contention. (They’re both great albums, and BBTM, in particular, is one of the best things I’ve heard this year.) But even with those two records off the board, any potential Album Of The Week is going to face a daunting field of contenders, one that includes Destroyer and Yo La Tengo and Foals and Frog Eyes. Those albums all have their strong points, and all will have their partisans, especially Destroyer’s pointed and erudite Poison Season. For my money, though, none of them can stand up to a record that might easily go unnoticed. All Dogs are a warm, welcoming, open-hearted DIY band, one whose music reflects the supportive communalism of punk scenes past but not the confrontational negation. Their album Kicking Every Day is a comforting, familiar quilt of reverbed guitars and longing voices. If you hear it in the background while you’re paying attention to other things, it’s perfectly possible to write off Kicking Every Day as a competent and pleasant album of home-recorded fuzz-pop and then to wonder why the fuck I’m writing about it instead of Destroyer or Yo La Tengo in this space. But if you listen closely enough, it’s one of the bravest and most finely wrought albums about isolation and depression in recent memory. It’s an album that can do things to you. It absolutely belongs in this column, and you should absolutely hear it.
The person behind All Dogs is Maryn Jones, a young woman from Columbus, Ohio with a honeyed, conversational voice. Jones is a member of the very good Columbus folk-punk band Saintseneca, and earlier this year, under the name Yowler, she released The Offer, a stripped-down and devastating solo cassette/Bandcamp album. The Offer didn’t sound anything like Cat Power, but the feelings it evoked — a woman singing hushed and unvarnished lyrics about bottomless sadness over quiet and intimate acoustic guitars — reminded me a big of Chan Marshall’s early work. The Offer was about as real and intimate as underground music ever gets. And the remarkable thing about Kicking Every Day, the first All Dogs album, is that it captures that same sense of raw vulnerability with songwriting that’s been fleshed-out and turned into the sort of thing you can use for pogoing purposes. All Dogs belong to the same loose and nebulous national warehouse-music scene as bands like Waxahatchee and Radiator Hospital. But even more than those guys, Jones is an emotional open book, and her lyrics about feeling utterly and completely alone are powerful things.
On Kicking Every Day, Jones’ lyrics are almost entirely about feeling like a fuckup, feeling like you’re bringing down everyone around you, and not being sure what to do about it. A lot of those lyrics could be about romantic desolation — “I am a black hole / Everything I touch slowly turns to dust / And you are pure” — but they could just as easily be about platonic friendship, about the idea that you’re helpless to become anything other than the black sheep in your circle of friends. They’re about the fear, even in good times, that the way you’re living is unsustainable, that you are unsustainable: “In six months, will you even call me a friend?” Plenty of people who feel the way Jones feels aren’t actual fuckups; they’re people who can’t get out of their own heads and can’t stop thinking of themselves as fuckups. That’s a whole lot of people, at least from time to time, and if you’re reading a website like Stereogum, I’d go so far as to guess that it’s likely you sometimes. Jones sings in allegory, and her imagery can be awfully evocative. The album title comes from the song “That Kind Of Girl,” and it’s about thinking that someone should stay away from you but also bristling at the idea that people are telling someone to stay away from you. “I am underneath the water, kicking every day,” Jones sings. Then, later: “I don’t want to drag you under, kicking every day.”
On paper, all of this makes Kicking Every Day look like an unbelievable downer of an album, and it sort of is. But it never sounds that way. All Dogs’ aesthetic is punchy but also heavy on effects pedals. We’ve been hearing a whole lot of this type of music lately, but there isn’t really a catchy subgenre name for it. It’s music that draws on the diaristic inwardness of late-’90s and early-’00s indie rock but also the bouncy melodic insistence of that same era’s pop-punk. In its deep sincerity and its combination of influences, it recalls the moment when emo was starting to build a huge college-based word-of-mouth audience but when it hadn’t yet become a marketing buzzword. But this stuff never sounds like that era of emo, or any other, and it sure as hell isn’t part of the emo revival that’s been gathering steam for the last few years. It has nothing to do with hardcore beyond that whole historic get-in-the-van ethos, that willingness to play hard for crowds numbering in the single digits. There’s nothing definitively female about this recent strain of DIY music, but it seems to encompass a whole lot of female or female-fronted bands — Waxahatchee, Girlpool, Chumped — who don’t even have that much in common musically but who seem to belong to the same extended community. All Dogs have been around for a few years, but Kicking Every Day is their first album. And with it, they’ve proven themselves to be one of the best things going in this tough-to-define wave of bands. They are an emotional force, and they will make you feel good about feeling bad.
Kicking Every Day is out 8/28 on Salinas Records. Stream it below.
Other albums of note out this week:
• The Weeknd’s sleek and bleak pop masterpiece Beauty Behind The Madness.
• Beach House’s whispering, consoling Depression Cherry.
• Destroyer’s grand, incisive glam-rock/smooth-jazz hybrid Poison Season.
• Yo La Tengo’s twee-ish covers album Stuff Like That There.
• Foals’ charged-up, relatively raw What Went Down.
• Tamaryn’s synthy, slinky Cranekiss.
• Frog Eyes’ slippery cancer-recovery LP Pickpocket’s Locket.
• Sea Lion’s whisper-folk debut Desolate Stars.
• Willis Earl Beal’s strange, meditative Nocturnes.
• Dogs On Acid’s hooky self-titled punk rock debut.
• Mike Krol’s energetic, melodic garage-rocker Turkey.
• Dope Body’s sweaty noise-rocker Kunk.
• Nile’s assured death metal blast What Should Not Be Unearthed.
• LUWUM’s twangy, meditative Places Worn.
• The Island Of Misfit Toys’ expansive, inward-looking I Made You Something.
• Silicon’s conceptual techno-funker Personal Computer.
• Dialect’s murmuring electronic Gowanas Drift.
• The Atom Age’s garage-punker Hot Shame.
• Infinity Girl’s melodic shoegazer Harm.
• I tried to run away when i was 6’s plainspoken DIY effort Not Avoiding You.
• Fake Palms’ self-titled psychedelic postpunk debut.
• Stolen Jars’ twinkling, atmospheric Kept.
• Motörhead’s reliably crusty Bad Magic.
• Panda Bear’s Crosswords EP.
• Tenement’s self-titled EP.
• Fine Print’s self-titled EP.
• Pixx’s Fall In EP.