Dappled Cities’ third album 'Zounds' has ushered in a brave new era for the Sydney five-piece, writes A.H CAYLEY.
Long time no hear, Messrs Cities. It’s been three years. Me? I’m OK. Been much better. You? Why, you’re fantastic. Never better.
Zounds is a beautiful and rich experience. It’s new territory for the band, but I can’t put my finger on where exactly that territory lies: it sounds quite unlike most of Dappled Cities’ preceding works, but is at the same time so distinctive. There’s still the gorgeous harmonies, centred guitars, smooth, crisp electronica. There’s still the imaginative and thoughtful lyrics and the catchy hooks within intelligent and sophisticated songs. It’s still grandiose without being overstated. It still paints pictures, lyrically and musically. It still shows proof of some finely-tuned pop sensibilities, while at the same time representing a band with deeper musical ideas.
You can still escape in the music of Dappled Cities – let it flow over you and allow the well-crafted songs to meld into one sonic artwork – or you can still skip to a single track in isolation and it’ll have the same effect. You can still let it float by dreamily and you can still focus on it intently. So what’s changed? Well, I’m not entirely sure. It just feels different – and that’s what makes it terribly exciting.
“You can still escape in the music of Dappled Cities – let it flow over you and allow the well-crafted songs to meld into one sonic artwork – or you can still skip to a single track in isolation and it’ll have the same effect.”
Perhaps it’s because it’s less of a pop album than their previous works. It’s certainly less accessible – and better for it. Of course, there are radio-friendly standouts. First single ‘The Price’ was an apt choice for pre-release. The harmonious “ooohs” that dance behind lead singer Tim Derricourt’s vocals are truly uplifting, while his cry, “Something should be holding us back/Something should be weighing us down”, is sung with such matter-of-fact joy that I don’t dare to disbelieve it. It seems nothing is holding Dappled back.
Other highlights include ‘Wooden Ships’, where an ominous intro soon gives way to the falsetto, effects-laden vocals of the first verse. It’s at the same time haunting and inviting, before it twists into a more straightforward, but no less gorgeous pop song. There’s something in the plaintive, aching, broken projection of the line, “These were our wooden ships/You’re as much mine as you’re his”, that makes it far more moving than the lyrics book could ever hint at (or the mere mention of it in a review for that matter). Be sure to hear it: it will destroy you. For me, Dappled Cities have always evoked an optimistic kind of melancholia: it makes me feel sad, but it makes me feel good about feeling that way at the same time.
Elsewhere, ‘The Night is Young at Heart’ is sure to be a nightclub dance favourite; ‘Don’t Stop There’ and ‘Kid’ will have dreamy indie girls clutching their hearts in their bedrooms; and ‘Apart’ will have crowds pumping their fists and stamping their feet.
Zounds feels like a new era for Dappled Cities – and it couldn’t be more exciting.
Zounds is out now through Speak N Spell.