Menu | Rating System | Guest Book
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
(Older reviews archived alphabetically by artist name.)



  Dominant Legs  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

Let's get this out of the way upfront: San Francisco band Dominant Legs are indeed a very 80s-retro, synth-pop band. This 5 piece (originally a duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lynch and Keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Hunt) has been around for a couple of years and has one EP to its credit. Not surprisingly, then, their new release, Invitation, showcases an upbeat, treble-happy musical style which is very engaging and quite enjoyable.

Before I go any further, it's worth noting that, when I call this record "synth-pop", I use the term as a true adjective and not a genre description. I only mention this because it seems that these days, in the world of musical reviews, "retro synth-pop" has become a written synonym for "New Wave". Or, more specifically, the term ends up invoking memories of the Human League, ABC, A Flock of Seagulls, or any number of early/mid-80s British electronic New Wave bands where the synths were the focal point of the music. You know the ones about which I am talking: bands which had a heavy presence on MTV back when MTV actually had an influence on the type of music to which I listened. Invitation does not sound like any of those acts. Rather, Dominant Legs are less overtly electronic, which is a small but important distinction.

Invitation opens with Take a Bow, which itself starts with a jangly guitar riff very reminiscent of Lambchop's Your Fucking Sunny Day. But immediately, Ryan Lynch's higher-pitched vocals chime in (backed by Hunt's very light voice), punctuated by drums and a sparse bass-line, which is in itself mixed lower than your hear in most songs these days. It's a boppy little tune that realistically invites the listener to dance and have a grand old time. From there, the band moves into one of my favorite tracks, Where We Trip the Light. This tune begins with a quick Caribbean-esque beat (some listeners may think "Afro-beat" or even Paul Simon's Graceland, but honestly I hear something more akin to Lionel Ritchie's All Night Long) emphasized by alternating synths and guitars. From there, Lynch's vocals come in, only to be punctuated by Hunt's light tones during the chorus. The chorus itself is a confection of boppy happiness, which flows into an almost croony bridge. It's fun stuff, and continues the "stand up and dance, durn it" vibe.

The third song, Already Know That It's Nice, is a slower paced tune, with a laconic beat and riff and a vocal part wherein Lynch and Hunt sing simultaneously throughout. It feels almost twee, but I suspect that's more because Hunt's voice is so very high-pitched that the comparison feels just apt. Darling Girls, which follows, probably comes closest to a retro New Wave sound. It begins with very emphatic synths and an electronic-sounding drumbeat. From there, the instruments stay more minimal as Lynch sings the verse before the electronics become lush and the vocals become more effected for the chorus of "Those darlings girls…". It is a very mid 80s-sounding tune, which wouldn't be out of place in a film by John Hughes.

The next song, Hoop of Love, is my other favorite on the records. Featuring synth arpeggios and bouncy vocals, it's one of those tunes that just makes you happy. Especially of note is the very jangly chorus where Lynch's and Hunt's voices blend in a rather pretty harmony. I must confess that this one song is so very hooky that I've woken up multiple mornings with it stuck in my head, which is the mark of a good tune. From there we move on to another very retro-esque tune (ala Darling Girls) called Lady is Sleek and So Petite. It's another charmer, complete with a stuttering electronic beat. Likewise, 2 New Thoughts About U, despite its Prince-like title, focuses again on the synths, although this time around the sounds are bit lower-pitched than most of Invitation and the guitar jangle almost has a funky tone. Then comes The One That You're With which somehow manages to be all fuzzy and Flashdance-y at the same time. Yet, when Hunt's backing vocals come in, I’m almost reminded of the early work of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, with the electronic fuzz on this tune taking the place of the effected, tremolo guitars.

Calm Down is a very short and light tune where the synth sounds almost like a regular piano and the guitarwork sounds acoustic. It immediately flows into Make Time for the Boy, which manages to invoke a very sunny pop vibe, complete with a little reverb and some harmonies and chord-progressions straight out of the 60s. She Can Boss Me Around returns to the 80s sound heard earlier on tunes like Take a Bow, even with its occasional minor-keyed chord and the slightly discordant backing vocals by Hunt. Invitation then concludes with Loving Now, which maintains the minor-keyed vibe of the previous song but also added in a punctuated guitar jangle and lower-miced funky bassline. On this one, Lynch's voice croons in a way that reminds me a bit of Chris Isaacs and Hunt's backing voice acts as a highlighter, even as it edges even higher. But things fills out and become almost lush during the sustained chorus. It's a upbeat and engaging way to end the record.

In reviewing this album, it dawned on me that musical styles and influences, like musical tastes themselves, go in cycles. And it seems like these days we're hearing more and more Indie bands (think Chicago's Gold Motel or even Lynch's previous band, Magic Bullets) producing music which has a poppy warmth that combines retro synthy sound with jangly guitars. Dominant Legs fall squarely within this realm and, if you like that type of music (and I certainly do), Invitation has much to offer and enjoy.

Related Links:

   Also on EvilSponge:
         Concert: Fri.07.Oct.11


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.