Dntel – Dumb Luck

Dumb Luck

Dumb Luck doesn’t sound like a title someone who is as meticulous as Jimmy Tamborello claims to be would choose for an album that was painstakingly labored over, but it’s the one he has chosen for his latest release under the Dntel moniker. More than five years after Dntel’s last release, Life Is Full Of Possibilities, and four years after The Postal Service’s Give Up, the highly successful electro-pop collaboration between Tamborello and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Dntel return with nine ambient electro-pop tracks bolstered by some prominent guest vocalists.

Dumb Luck serves up some discerning electro-pop, but don’t expect the bubbly, new-wave synth washes or the lively beats found on The Postal Service’s Give Up. Instead, the electronic percussion is more reserved, the beats slower paced and the synth burbles more subdued. There are no immediately fetching melodies or attention grabbing hooks so the music must be listened to with a thoughtful awareness in order to appreciate the subtle nuances of these digital dreams.

Most of the tracks on Dumb Luck lack a definitive song structure and seem intent on establishing a mood using slowly evolving rhythms with fluid electronic textures and various sound effects. The mood is mostly somber as these sound sculptures rely on the vocals to turn them into songs by providing some focus and a bit of melody over the bleeps and drones.

The better tracks contain perky beats and cool laptop-pop subtleties that rise from the electronic musical haze and include “To A Fault” featuring some gently rolling, looped percussives and the vocals of Ed Droste (Grizzly Bear); “I’d Like To Know You” which boasts some magnetic piano work by Markus Acher (Lali Puna) and the detached yet smooth vocals of Lali Puna’s Valerie Trebeljahr; “Roll On” includes some slick electronic percolations and the sugary sweet singing of Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley); “The Distance” with it’s sumptuous tones and the calming vocal harmonies of Grant Olsen and “Breakfast In Bed” featuring Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes).

The remaining tracks are more free-form and feel cluttered with some blurred melodies and too much fuzz although attempts are made to season them up with some vocals including some by indie chanteuse Mia Doi Todd.

Dumb Luck has it’s share of intriguing moments, on a few shining tracks, with the clever mingling of electronic soundscapes and pop structure and some alluring vocals, but I still turn to the RIYLs when I want to hear some better ambient electro-pop.