Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Carpark Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Dream Pop
Given the sedating comfort that envelops Dog Bite’s sophomore album, Tranquilizers, it couldn’t be more appropriately titled. Every song is filled with a foggy haze that sounds a bit more languid and transcendent than the lighter melodies of last year’s Velvet Changes. This dark, slow turn is also present in Phil Jones’s lyrics, all of which seem to yearn for help from some lost subconscious state.
By the time Dog Bite released their second album, Tranquilizers, it was a full-fledged band instead of the project of Phil Jones. With Woody Shortridge on bass and Tak Takemura on drums, Dog Bite already added more substance to Jones' pleasantly woozy dream pop on a series of EPs leading up to Tranquilizers' release. However, the band sounds more fleshed-out and focused than ever on these songs, which were inspired in part by soul legends such as Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.
You’ve got to wonder why Phil Jones, the man behind Dog Bite, decided to put out Tranquilizers in the frosted depths of January. The sky is the colour of a filing cabinet. Your legs are the texture of an uncooked supermarket chicken. No one can remember what it feels like to have fingers. Now is ….
For his follow-up to last year's debut album, former Washed Out keyboardist Phil Jones (aka Dog Bite) operates in a hazy field where shoegaze and '80s goth intersect. Guitars twinkle and twang through moody, atmospheric tunes and electronic percussion, with Jones' vocals providing a steady, calming presence throughout. (www.dogusbitus.tumblr.com) .
Preconceptions being what they are (i.e. largely unavoidable, however one wishes otherwise), a band’s name can usually give a broad indication of what to expect of their sound. The name Dog Bite connotes anger, aggression, confrontation – a punk or metal band perhaps, or at the least an indie band with balls (figuratively speaking). The aforementioned qualities are however conspicuous by their absence in the sound of Dog Bite.
Dog Bite started as the solo project of Washed Out’s Phil Jones, a way for him to escape the confines of that group’s chillwave reputation and flourish with a number of diverse influences and sounds. After releasing his debut, Velvet Changes, in early 2013 on Carpark Records, Jones brought on a few more bandmates from groups like Balkans and Mood Rings and began work on his sophomore effort, the aptly titled Tranquilizers. This album will literally make you go numb if you don’t move around while listening to it.
When you think of Dog Bite as a band name, what do you think of? Do you think of hardcore punk? Heavy garage? Something sinister and devious? Well, it turns out that this Atlanta-based outfit isn’t any of those things. Would you believe… chillwave? Shoegaze? Surf Rock? Dog Bite, the band, is all that and much more, sometimes even resembling ‘80s Britpop along the lines of the Smiths. So, yes, it is a rather strange and beguiling name for the band, but as their second album (in less than a year at that) called Tranquilizers shows, a lack of musical identity is the least of the band’s problems.
Haste isn't a quality you'd expect from shoegaze band - especially considering the lifetime it took some of the genre's most iconic acts to put out albums. But in an effort to buck the habit of their forbears - or perhaps make up for lost time - Atlantan natives Dog Bite (led by frontman and one time Washed Out keyboardist Phil Jones) have returned little under a year since the release of their patchy first LP - this time armed with the threat of robuster sonic intent. Their debut - Velvet Changes - was awash with synth atmospherics and vocal drones, which combined echoes of Nineties shoegaze with the chillwave aesthetics of their contemporaries.
The shambling corpse of chillwave is just a little depressing at this point. Yet Dog Bite, possibly in an attempt to reinvigorate it, have stuck to their guns. ‘Tranquilizers’ shows considerable growth over last year’s ‘Velvet Changes’, in that each song is distinguishable from the last. It may not be the leap in quality to stand alongside a ‘Life of Leisure’ or a ‘Psychic Chasms’, but it’s still resulted in an intermittently enjoyable record, albeit one that suffers from a lack of quality control.
In their second offering as a band, Dog Bite leave little evidence of growth or, more importantly, purpose. It’s the Atlanta-based side-project of Washed Out keyboard player Phil Jones, whose love for all things wavy invites poor choices musically and lyrically at every turn. Where there’s a chance for a new color in his palette, Jones opts for the same icy guitars and the vaguest of moods.