BOSTON/NE BANDS, Fresh Stream, Music

Dark Tones — Cliff Dogs


There are not a lot of albums I’d play to put a baby to sleep. But Cliff Dogs, a set of sweet, floaty beach-rock melodies from the Boston band Dark Tones, is one of them. Soft, crooning vocals drift over the instrumentals. The lyrics are as repetitive as the riffs, telling sad little stories of personal defeat. The songs are soft and simple—lullabies for cool pre-verbals.

Cliff Dogs comprises just five songs, and two are covers. Even from this small sample you are able to suss the band’s previously mentioned vibe. The exception is the first track, “Tiny Bird,” a 40-second explosion of random static, screeching guitar, messy, crashing drums, and angsty chanting. There’s even some Sonic Youth–esque guitar feedback at the end. But the aggression ends there, I promise.

Post-“Bird,” Cliff Dogs swoons into a shimmering wave of melancholy. The delay-drenched riffs on “Come Into” and “Baby Blue Sedan” (a Modest Mouse cover) repeat throughout the songs. Hushed, brushy drumming and quiet, thumby bass melt into the background. Occasional big, lush barre chords—often mixed a little too loud—fill out spaces left empty by the minimalist lead guitar.

On “Odyssia,” a steady drumbeat with frequent, tight rolls qualifies as heart-pounding excitement compared to the other songs’ hush. Both guitars are in full drive; chords constantly push over the sliding, heavily picked lead notes. Top it off with some “Beach Boys woos” and you’ve got something pretty catchy.

It normally bugs me when covers don’t significantly reinvent the original, so I probably shouldn’t like the Dark Tones’ version of the Built to Spill song “Twin Falls.” The band doesn’t bring much new to this tale of soul mates in Idaho, but these guys execute the track so well, I can’t complain.

Dark Tones are truly endearing: they make really pretty music. Only the most hardcore of headbangers would say they hate this band. Then they’d go home, lose the leather, and lie down and listen to Cliff Dogs while they drift gently off to sleep.

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