Goner – Dollar Movie

Dollar Movie

There was a time when I wanted every album to sound like this. Goner’s style defined what I loved about college rock in the mid- to late-90s. The guitars are light and poppy, the vocals remarkably clean, the hooks evident, yet there is a subtlety to the songwriting that is undeniable. And while this style of music will always feel more appropriate for that period of time, Dollar Movie is as good today as it would have been then.
This Raleigh band writes nearly perfect pop-rock songs that evoke images of REM, For Squirrels, early Yo La Tango, and even Pavement at times, without the quirky song structures. The basic elements are all here, linked together by very strong vocals, and the band adds drum loops, keyboards and organs, and other unique instrumentation to spice things up. You could (and likely will) sing along with these songs, especially on the more rock-focused songs, but the band experiments a bit here and there to keep things interesting.
The opener, “This Side of the Bridge” starts off with a nice layering of keyboards backing the poppy rhythm, and the song had a more melancholy feel. One of my favorites, “A Tuesday Afternoon in May 1975” is bouncy and extremely catchy, reminding me of For Squirrels with keyboards, and “Acts of God + Fireworks” is about as good as it gets: catchy, strong, rocking, and bouncy. There’s more urgency to “Stars Over Avon,” which could be a more modernized REM song. The closer, “Lifer’s Lament,” has a lo-fi feel, with vocals and a single electric guitar having a sparse, removed feel that works nicely for the song.
Occasionally the band disregards the college pop-rock song for something different, like the drum loop- and keyboard-infused title track, which is more upbeat if a bit odd sounding. There’s hints of Death Cab for Cutie’s style of pop on the piano-led, sweetly sad story-telling “The Night the Lineman Died (Norman’s Gone).” Also led by piano and a light beat, with airy, dreamy vocals, “Velvet Cloak” is another interesting track.
It’s hard to describe what made up college-rock, before it turned into the mainstream “alternative” drivel we all know today. But bands like REM and Yo La Tengo were doing it for years, and Goner has incorporated the spirit – if not the sound – perfectly. This is one damn catchy, extremely tight, perfectly produced pop-rock album with surprisingly deep lyrics. This is a real gem.