Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
It’s a Corporate World
( Quite Scientific/ Warner Bros.)
[Rating 3.5 stars]
An unassuming NASCAR fan giving Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s new record It’s a Corporate World a spin would likely experience the same disappointment as a tourist strolling into the American Apparel unusually placed in the center of Nashville’s honky tonk district. Despite their name, the duo of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott craft the kind of layered, dreamy pop tunes that you would certainly never hear at a NASCAR race.
Echoing acts like Hot Chip, Animal Collective, Passion Pit and Beach House, It’s a Corporate World is a layered, pretty ode to love and love lost. Opening track “Morning Thought” comes in with sampled keys, drums and guitars that could easily serve as a hip-hop backing track but instead lay the groundwork for soaring, Beach Boys-esque harmonies that sound more drenched in California sun than Detroit smog. “Skeletons” sounds like an Animal Collective/Vampire Weekend b-side, while “Simple Girl” owes its vocal melody to Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles. Standout track “We Almost Lost Detroit” combines all of these elements with a bit of Detroit soul, resulting in a groove of a track that could really bring the house down at a live show.
Rare is the record that consistently offers interesting, unexpected instrumentation, but even rarer is one that backs it up with well-crafted lyrics; It’s a Corporate World delivers both. The title track explores the business of everyday life and, though it risked cliché, delivers a fresh perspective on life as a commodity. “Nothing But Our Love” gets a little cutesy, but does so delicately enough that when Epstein and Zott harmonize the line “all we have/all we have/is nothing but our love/it’s easy,” I believe them.
It’s a Corporate World is a refreshing full-length debut that would serve well on any summer playlist. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. may see the world as unfortunately corporate (and who could blame them having gotten their name from one of the world’s most heavily-sponsored professional sports), but it’s a beautiful one, too.