As I was sitting at Grass Stains at Ringer Park this past Saturday, absorbing the lovely sounds of Bathaus, Gerty Farish, and Milo Jones (who does the best drunk Joe Pass impersonation I’ve ever seen), it occurred to me that summer is essentially upon us. While we still have three weeks to go before it becomes official, I think we can safely start to break out our seasonal jams. In my case, this usually means a lot of ’60s girl groups—the Shirelles, Ronettes, Shangri-Las, and Crystals. Carousel, the new split 12” release from Ireland’s Dott and NorCal’s Night School, fits nicely among the works of these artists. Both Dott and Night School clearly draw a great deal of inspiration from girl groups, but the music they create is not slavishly imitative. Their efforts feel familiar, yet fresh, and are perfectly suited for summer spins.
The project opens with Dott’s “Car Song,” an immediately likable blast of sunny pop. For a band based out of the UK, Dott does an excellent job simulating a classic California sound—from the background harmonies to the shimmery, cleanly strummed Fender guitars, the group is expertly recalling a certain era and location. Production-wise, the band distinguishes itself from the pack with the inclusion of shoegazy textures and feedback, adding a bit of grit to an ordinarily pristine sound. Dott’s other contribution to the project, “Glue,” is even better—a well-crafted two-and-a-half minute tune full of dynamics and harmony, this song is a must on summer playlists. Overall, Dott reminds me a bit of Beverly, a recent offshoot of Dum Dum Girls that packs a similarly gritty sound while maintaining a strong focus on melody and crisp production.
Night School, interestingly, sounds less Californian than Dott, despite actually being from California. They fare less well on this split, with sloppier production and a weaker sense of dynamics. “Unkind” could be a compelling song, but you would never know it—loud, distorted guitars obscure whatever noteworthy qualities it may have, transforming it into a forgettable two minutes of shoegaze. However, they do contribute a delightful closing track, “Black and Blue,” where the guitars recede for a moment and allow for a beautiful vocal melody to peek through.
You would do well to take 11 minutes of your time and give Carousel (currently out on Graveface Records) a listen. It’s not especially challenging music, but it compliments the warmer weather perfectly, and it will almost certainly put a smile on your face.