DR. DOG > Fate

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Fate is a funny word with often polarizing connotations. For instance, fate might lead a person to meet the love of his or her life, fashioning a rosy existence-black-shuttered house with a white picket fence and three kids running with a black lab through the sprinkler in the front yard. Or it might lead one to something less ideal, perhaps a gruesome death by a rusty chainsaw or a grizzly bear. It’s a double-edged sword that can be tough to grasp. After all, there are many out there that not only have trouble with fate; they don’t believe in it at all.

Label: PARK THE VAN
[Rating: 4]

Fate is a funny word with often polarizing connotations. For instance, fate might lead a person to meet the love of his or her life, fashioning a rosy existence-black-shuttered house with a white picket fence and three kids running with a black lab through the sprinkler in the front yard. Or it might lead one to something less ideal, perhaps a gruesome death by a rusty chainsaw or a grizzly bear. It’s a double-edged sword that can be tough to grasp. After all, there are many out there that not only have trouble with fate; they don’t believe in it at all.

Dr. Dog does. The rag tag Philadelphia outfit’s latest record, Fate, addresses this idea of destiny. To the band, fate is like a train, “moving towards you or moving away from you…right in your face, ever-present and forceful.” They should know, as their journey has certainly been one affected by outside forces. Such as when Scott McMicken’s father moved the family to West Grove, Pa., allowing his young son to spark a life-long, creative friendship with Toby Leaman, co-founder of Dr. Dog. Or when Jim James picked the band to open for My Morning Jacket after he listened to a sprinkle-filled demo that McMicken gave him. Or when Beck decided to re-mix “The Girl,” from last year’s We All Belong¸ a choice that would propel any band into the limelight.

This train holds Fate together, rhythmically moving along the tracks from one idea to another. “The Breeze” is just that, a cool wind of a song that starts the steel turning, while reminding one not to dwell on the tiresome aspects of life. “Hang On” brings the steam engine to life and features lush vocals, rusty guitars and a Charlie Brown chugalug rhythm section. These first songs illustrate that Dr. Dog aren’t trying to change their style-the rustic charm and retro pop sensibilities still ring true. But as the train carries the listener along, one finds Dr. Dog honing these characteristics and expanding upon them. “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer” cruises across open meadows with every element-from the handclaps to the vocals to the shakers to the plucked guitar-shining clearly, and is one of the best songs by Dr. Dog yet. When the whole journey flashes before one’s eyes on “My Friend,” the listener should realize that this is the best Dr. Dog album to date.

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