When I caught Andrew Bird at least year’s Austin City Limits Festival, he sported his usual charm and wit – and sure, he brought his ‘A’ game with amazing new takes on his own songs. But at the side of him, neatly situated behind a drum set, drum machine and electric piano was Dosh. Bird would often allow the multi-instrumentalist to lead the tempo on a song here, take over the melody on a different one there, and so on. Through every drum fill or rhythmic escape, it was apparent that this wasn’t just one gifted musician and his backing band but rather, Dosh fully held his ground, elevating the night’s performance into something that could be labeled as freakishly good.
On that same note, the exact same thing could be said about Dosh’s fifth album, Tommy. Named in memory of his lost friend, Tom Cesario, Dosh pulls together an album that carries all of his fashionable trademarks and turns them into an album that just might be his best yet. Not only is the music he’s created something to behold but there are countless moments where there is nothing left to do but relentlessly nod away. The styles change throughout the pictures, with every new sound harking back to an image of wonderment. And overall, it captures a musician that is rightfully and dutifully crafting excellent music.
He’s stretched out immensely, covering the deepest aspects of his arsenal with a confident whip of the hand. Instead of slowly sucking us in with an opening bliss of tenderness, Dosh comes crashing in with his trademark keyboard sound while his drums comfortably toy about. It’s a celebratory outlook on life in that even after we’ve passed, the people left behind can sit back and reminisce on the good times; although we get to some sadness (the ending epic shredding of “Gare de Lyon”), there is far too much good occurring here.
His previous album, 2008’s Wolves and Wishes, seemed more like an exercise in turning jazz into something both avant-garde and ambient. And while his sax players would dip in and out of their solos with determined ease, it was his interludes and dazzling melodies that kept you coming back for more. This time around, his scope is thicker with oozing ambient pieces interspersed between moving beat stompers. It makes the last album appear distinctly different in comparison, when in reality they’re subtle modifications and changes that propel forward.
Such is the case with the thumping “Airlift.” Being a talented drummer, you figured it was only time before Dosh would step into the realm of hip-hop. Using live instrumentation, the swirling atmospherics are introduced before his drum set kicks in. And even with the added beats in the background, as lush as they are, the dynamics are strengthened by slowly moving chords and a winning synth melody. It hits at the right moment too – fittingly placing the focus on the album’s sequencing – with quietness before it (“Loud”) and glowing classical mixed with IDM (“County Road X”).
It makes perfect sense for Bird to show up on “Number 41” with laid-back vocals that juxtapose the drum’s forward-thinking beat. And it makes you wonder just how much more it will take for Dosh to get the recognition he deserves. It’s certainly going to be one of the most, if not the most, fresh sounding electronic albums of the year and it’s only going to get better as time passes. In the meantime, he’ll settle on making fantastic music that is filled with moments of clarity and life abound.