THE YEAR OF THE DOG

 
I feel like I'm in the center of all the music I value on this planet right now.

-Scott McMicken

 

From there it was straight gangbusters. The blogosphere draped praise all over the band and before you know it they were touring in support of big names like The Raconteurs, The Black Keys, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Architecture in Helsinki and Ambulance Ltd. "We've been incredibly lucky with the bands that have called us up and asked us to go out on the road with them" says McMicken. "I feel like I'm in the center of all the music I value on this planet right now and I've pretty much had the opportunity to share the stage with them. Just being out there has rekindled my faith in what music can mean nowadays."


Dr. Dog
There's something to this notion of "faith in music" that runs through Dr. Dog. Not so much in the sense of religion - although McMicken does partially credit the band's dreamy three-part vocal approach to Leaman's youth in a Methodist minister's home where "every one sang" - but music that instills the listener with hope, joy, and at times, even faith.

"I think that our almost overemphasis on positivity is a direct response to the prevalence of negativity. You can either draw from that negativity and try to make something beautiful out of it, or you can try to create its opposite" explains McMicken. "I also think that part of managing all that negativity that definitely exists in the world is being willing to say something positive when it comes up; a lot of people, myself included, get a little cynical and tend not to trust happiness as much as you trust pain. Maybe you feel vulnerable, like 'I shouldn't feel happy because then I'm subject to having it ripped away.' So I think a lot of the positivity has to do with the fact that we are not afraid to say when something is great or talk about how much we love something."

The positive message and upbeat party vibe courses through the band's February 27 release, We All Belong. Even the album title is inviting. Yet, there's more to it than just distorted sunshine guitar solos and sing-along melodies (although they are definitely in there). There's a yin to every yang, and sumptuous depths around every corner.

Take a song like "Die Die Die." Even just based on the name we know this ain't good times for all but the more you dig, the more you find. "I love that song, and to me it typifies what Toby is about as a musician. It's this amalgamation of this soul power and this ancient, sort of primitive bone-banging kind of thing. That's totally where Toby shines, in his ability to come up with that older-than-dirt style of songwriting and lyrical perspective. It touches on a lot of the themes that he's always writing about - this kind of disparaging, masculine coping process of dealing with jealousy or drying. He thinks about death a lot. He's got that kind of quality about him."


Dr. Dog by Paolo Proserpio
Although Dr. Dog will at times drift towards the abyss, what defines We All Belong is the bright light that shines through the speakers. Songs like the rollicking piano romp "Old News," the sweet but not sappy "Old Ways," and the tender "Alaska" are enough to make old cynics who gave up on hope in 1979 a chance to believe again. This is why fans are flocking and the world is open for Dr. Dog. They've meshed a list of influences ranging from the apt Beatles and Beach Boys references to more subtle heroes like Tom Waits, Pavement and Neil Young to create some mutant blend of power-pop that seems capable of saving the world. And even if the music can't save the masses, it appears to be saving McMicken and Leaman.


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