Being a good person takes a lot of energy

With futuristic synth lines and the ominously deadpan vocals of husband-and-wife duo of Seth Smith and Nancy Urich, Halifax’s Dog Day runs the risk of sounding like just another new wave throwback band, along the lines of Metric—and especially pertinent comparison since Urich bears a distinct vocal similarity to Emily Haines. But unlike the hyper-compressed glitz of bands like Black Kids or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (circa 2009, that is), Dog Day still have one foot in the garage. The guitars are raw and scuzzy and placed high in the mix, probably thanks to producer John Agnello, who also worked on recent albums by Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.

These competing aesthetics are married perfectly in the lead single, “Happiness,” which begins with a spacey keyboard line and the unsettling ca-chunk of muted guitars. This soon explodes explodes into a vibrant chorus, with Smith’s vocals jumping from baritone to falsetto within the space of a single breath. “Wait It Out” is equally infectious, with handclaps and a sing-along chorus that’s as close as the band ever gets to sounding jaunty.

The album is only 11 songs long (totaling 45 minutes), but even at that length, the somberness becomes a little oppressive. There isn’t much in the way of sonic variety, and many of the lyrics read like self-help lists—”Do whatever you want / But don’t get carried away / Give whatever you gotta give / But don’t just throw it away” advises the chorus of “Youth of Destruction.” With instructional checklists such as this, it’s hard not to wish that Dog Day wouldn’t lighten the mood every once in a while. As a result, Concentration is album best enjoyed in small doses, and any one of these songs would fair well in a playlist.

The band also shot a charmingly retro video for “Happiness,” which features lots of ’80s-style green screen effects.

Concentration is out now via Outside / Black Mountain.
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