[19 October 2008]
On the continuum of popular instrumental music, The American Dollar have created an outpost somewhere between Moby’s catchy pop/soul-influenced songcraft and the expansive, emotional yet equally melodic rock of Explosions in the Sky. Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele play each and every instrument on this, their third album in just three short years or recording; the pair exhibit tremendous versatility and dexterity in using a variety of styles as the skeleton to which they attach flesh and blood—glorious melodies, vibrant musical colors and wonderfully moody arrangements. While the group’s music is certainly atmospheric, it is usually so in a way that suggests the abundant, fertile ground traditional rock acts tread, not the ambient frame often associated with instrumental music.
The album does, however, begin with two plus minutes of beautiful, ambient keyboard figures that repeat and form a pattern before “The Slow Wait (1)” is greeted with the first appearance of electronic beats and acoustic guitars; heading seamlessly into its counterpart, “The Slow Wait (2)”, the opening couplet is typical of the entire record: melodic, polished, dynamic, intriguing. Other inviting tracks include “Intermission,” with its opening interplay between pop piano and rock guitar, its sense of dynamics and swirling crescendo and its driving rhythms. Tracks like “Lights Dim” and “Our Hearts are Read” also highlight the wide spectrum which the duo embrace: the former is more ambient in nature, marrying piano ostinatos with subdued electric guitar, gently insistent beats and soft strings; the latter begins just as gently before turning into a vehicle for guitar solos that are arena-worthy.