March 10, 2005

Doves- Some Cities

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Since the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, American popular culture has had a flirtatious love affair with Britain’s musical exports. Over the past four decades, innumerable bands have come to define an unmistakable British sound, drawing on the original influences of the British invasion, but also significantly molded by the hands of punk rock, new wave and nineties Brit-pop. This last form has in recent years birthed bands such as Coldplay.

Doves, hailing from Manchester, released their major label debut one month before Coldplay’s first album Parachutes hit record stores; however, they have yet to achieve the chart success, album sales, critical recognition and fame experienced by their fellow countrymen. Upon a first listen, the two bands sound markedly similar. Most notably, vocalist Jimi Goodwin’s timbre is strikingly similar to that of Coldplay front man Chris Martin.

While Doves may have been initially set back by their stylistic comparability to Coldplay, and while the nearly simultaneous debut albums made it nearly impossible for both bands to rise to stardom five years ago, their latest effort Some Cities proves that they can undoubtedly hold their own, and perhaps finally escape the shadow cast over them by their counterparts.

What separates Goodwin and sibling band-mates Jez and Andy Williams from the pack is their wizardry in the recording studio. Doves employ a combination of digital and analog effects to provide multiple layers of sonic intricacy. This experimentalism can be heard throughout the album in a variety of forms, ranging from spacey synthesizer sounds on “Walk in the Fire” to the skipping music effect on “The Storm.”

Doves’ recording proficiency makes every aspect of a rock album, normally taken for granted, sound incredible. The often dramatic vocals, tactfully recorded in multiple parts with impressive dynamic, inflection and range were complemented by perfectly corresponding instrumentals. The vocal wall of sound on “Someday Soon” is augmented by a beautiful string arrangement and a harmonized lead guitar line.

Some Cities moves gracefully with ballads segueing into full-fledged rock songs with seamless transition. Lyrically, Doves leave much to be desired. Don’t expect to find any descriptive storytelling or abstract poetry. Rather, look forward to nursery school rhymes like, “Think I might have met you before/ I think it’s time we settled a score.” With the vocals woven as one texture into the overall soundscape, the empty words unconditionally succumb to the beauty of the music’s totality. The lack of eloquent lyrics is Some Cities’ Achilles heel, is the only thing that keeps it from being a perfect album

Archived article by Scott Eisman
Sun Contributor