Release Date: Oct 8, 2013
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
Even if The Speed of Things was an unmitigated disaster for the majority of its 13 tracks, the Detroit pop duo would still have managed to deliver one of the best songs of the year with their hook-laden single “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor).” Fortunately, Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott’s latest effort fires on all cylinders throughout (pun intended), continuing their successful blend of modern electronics and a Beach Boys approach to melody and vocal harmony. .
Sophomore efforts are tricky. As a complete package, they come with a great deal of pressure and are often pitched as the make-or-break moment in a band’s trajectory—the point at which they capitalize on their strengths, evolve and expand their sound, switch things up entirely or continue with business as usual and remain either solid or stagnant (depending on how the debut was received). Perhaps unfairly, it sometimes results in steadfast validation or vilification.
Like the city they come from, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are nostalgic, hopeful, and complicated, making dense electronic pop filled with pulsing beats and drifting melodies that evoke the pleasantness of the past while firmly facing the future. On The Speed of Things, the second outing from the Detroit duo, the pair return with a sound that feels refined yet somehow effortless, often drifting casually from track to track in a way that feels completely natural.
On their debut album (2011’s It’s a Corporate World), Detroit electro-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. showed us their strong suit: taking ever-present, convoluted social ideas and ideals and deconstructing them with an open-ended wit that came off as purely thoughtful rather than misguidedly arrogant. The handful of dominant tracks had serious zing, but came off as unpretentious.
We're all familiar with the enigmatic struggle of sophomore albums. There is an unfair expectation for a band to stick to what they know—or, more accurately, what we know—and also the need to expand to new horizons and stretch the boundaries..
Originally calling their blossoming music collaboration Counting Crows Pt. 2, Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott promptly changed the name after a friend sarcastically suggested that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. would be a good choice. Never taking themselves too seriously, the Detroit duo employs their ….
There’s nothing wrong with writing generic, radio-friendly pop, and leaving it at that. Simple, clever songs that are easily sung along to, and just as easily left as pleasant background noise. This is a memo that doesn’t seem to have reached Detroit natives Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., however, as throughout ‘The Speed Of Things’, they’re trying to find just about any way to mask their songs.Whether it’s the synths on ‘Run’ or the guitar samples on ‘Hiding’, there’s a concerted effort to make their MOR guitar pop something more ‘interesting’.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., unusually unmotorized for a Metro Detroit band, despite their name, seem ambivalent about getting their groove on. "You're supposed to surrender to the bass," they lackadaisically observe in "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't on the Dancefloor)." "You're supposed to roll your hips in time." But they sound skeptical, and their Vampire Weekend Lite take on Afro-Caribbean rhythm throughout feels equally unsure.
Although their recording career is just barely two years old, boasting only one previous album and an EP so far, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. has generated such a mighty buzz, it wholly belies their newcomer status. Then again, they’re not your ordinary band to begin with. Aside from their inexplicable ….