The press materials for Dinner Time’s second album, Halfway Down, love to throw around terms like bedroom pop, psych rock, and funk. While the Atlanta five-piece band have plenty of that to offer, what’s most admirable about this lovable new album is its sense of playfulness, with an impressive and initially incongruous melding of power-pop and jazziness. There are bits and pieces of bands everyone’s heard before on Halfway Down, but never quite in this unique combination.
The opening track, “This Feeling Is…”, brings to mind vague impressions of the Strokes, with slacker-drenched vocals singing “Wake up in the morning, think of my best friends / We haven’t talked in a while, I wonder how they’ve been,” but the song’s almost baroque-like shuffle is more in line with vintage Kinks. When they break into a jazzy guitar interlude at the halfway point, it’s clear that this is a band overstuffed with musical ideas.
But while Halfway Down is undoubtedly a more ambitious effort than their 2019 self-titled debut album, Dinner Time certainly knows how to keep things grounded. Songs like “No Problem” and “Tiny Steps” are terrific slices of melodic power-pop. The group, consisting of lifelong friends Alejandro Uribe, Andrew Joyce, Chad Miller, Ian Buford, and London Cameron, formed from the ashes of Buford’s former group, the Pellys, have melded seemingly disparate styles that have almost resulted in a new genre. “Baroque garage funk,” perhaps.
One nod to a particular style is apparent in “2:51 A.M.”, a tribute to the band’s love of the Japanese City Pop genre. The funky, propulsive electric guitars and insistent quasi-disco thump are a sunny contrast to the lyrics, which bemoan the end of a great party. “The shadows in the corner keeping creeping in,” Joyce sings. “It’s like this every time / Just with different goodbyes.” The song’s dancefloor-loving coda melds distorted guitar soloing with the bleating of synths, slowly fading away like the party guests themselves.
Halfway Down also immerses itself in low-key lounge vibes with songs like “Stuck”, experimental psych-synth workouts on the oddly mesmerizing title track, and even garage-rock-meets-Beatles balladry on “Is There Something?” The latter even includes plenty of anthemic guitar soloing that focuses on the band’s evident love of unvarnished rock and roll and the power it’s still capable of bringing to the masses. Dinner Time is a band with loads of musical chops and a great deal of vision, and while it can sometimes seem like they have way too many ideas for one group, they manage to create something wonderfully cohesive on Halfway Down.