Dolorean: Not Exotic

Jason MacNeil


Not Exotic

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2003-11-04
UK Release Date: Available as import

Yep Roc is one of the best labels around when it comes to finding hidden talent and making it a little less hidden. Although not in the same league as the majors, this label is certainly holding its own with the likes of Caitlin Cary, Thad Cockrell, and now Dolorean. If you look at the press kit, you might get the impression that this band is a shoegazing band from the dirty thirties. But the pairing of Al James and Ben Nugent, along with some other seasoned people, has more of a dirge-like atmosphere. "I really am a happy person," James says in the press kit. But judging from the opening, Nick Drake-like '70s folk found in "Morningwatch", you feel like there should be some Kleenex nearby or a storm cloud overhead. Beginning with a cello, James takes this tune down a depressingly beautiful path. "And as night's sins fade away and bee stings lose their swell / So begins my day, so ends my hell", he sings in a vein that instantly resembles Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska album more than The Ghost of Tom Joad. And it simply shines from start to finish! A good omen.

"Traded for Fire" has more of a bar piano swing to it, with the Americana or alt-country-styled sway giving the song a lot of feeling. Not exactly Wilco or Ryan Adams, but a cross of those two and groups like the Iron and Wine, the song has a gorgeous waltz quality to it. Or you just as easily could be on your sixth double, reflecting on what could've been. James gives a glimpse into his influences here, with Neil Young and Willie Nelson definitely present. "So I went to see her like a thief in the night / I gave her my death and stole from her life", is just a sample of the murder ballad Dolorean is aiming at. And here the band nails it without any question or hesitation. Nugent adds vocal harmonies here as well.

"Jenny Place Your Bets" could have come from Being There, with the organs creating a haunting yet roots-like characteristic. Bands like Blue Rodeo (if fronted by Greg Keelor and not Jim Cuddy) also are heard in this outstanding track. Not as overtly depressing or somber as groups like the Handsome Family, Dolorean seems to let the music do most of the talking while the less than cheerful lyrics complement the track to a science. The mandolin of Jeff Saltzman and the brushes used by drummer Jay Clarke are vital to the song's success. "The Light Behind My Head" is more of a group effort, perhaps the closest they'll get to recording as if they were around a campfire. Possibly the "pop song" of the album, it's up-tempo relative to the earlier efforts.

James could be 56 and not the 26 years he's been on this planet. World-weary and tired, he puts himself out there for "Still Here with Me", a moody and murky little ditty that weaves from strings to piano to vocals and back. Speaking about sleeping with ghosts, it has similarities to Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" but only in terms of content, certainly not evoking the same feel. "So You're a Touring Band Now" doesn't veer much from the album's overall gist, yet it doesn't seem quite as perfect as earlier tunes. Complete with all the small, audible chord changes on the guitar neck, the tune could use a pedal steel off in the distance to open it up somewhat. "Sleeperhold" is a psalm to the less fortunate, but has a certain "filler" aura to it. Maybe that's because it's one of the more accessible tunes here for most, à la Ryan Adams.

The album title basically says it all and then some. By the time the band sneak out the back door with "Spoil Your Down", you get the idea that what you've just heard was a gorgeous dream. And that's not even mentioning the tear-eyed "Hannibal, MO", a spine-tingling narrative about a lover being swept out to sea, a murder charge, and the family waiting for vengeance. "It's all too beautiful", James sings at one point on the album. I couldn't agree more!

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.