Times New Viking
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
Ohio lo-fi outfit Times New Viking is known for pushing the sonic envelope. 2009’s Born Again Revisited was recorded on VHS tape, and it’s that fuzzy, grainy, analog sound that initially attracted lo-fi die-hards to the band’s repertoire. Their latest release Dancer Equired, hitting shelves via Merge Records, takes a step back from the garage and into the studio, resulting in a collection of songs that maintains the band’s stripped-down sensibilities while putting more (needed) emphasis on melody and songwriting.
The songs are short but they pack a punch. “Downtown Eastern Bloc” throws some surprising pop in the mix, while “Fuck Her Tears” chugs along like fans of the band’s earlier records would expect. On some tracks, like “Ever Falling in Love” and “No Room to Live,” the band even dares to get a little pretty. The vocal harmonies are loose and guitars and drums plod along with careless ease, but, while each element might seem haphazard on its own, the band comes together for a musical unity their older records– while good in their own right– lacked. These tracks are where you really get a sense of what Times New Viking is about– partially because you can actually discern the lyrics, but also because the record’s softer moments put greater emphasis on those where the band really wants to get in your face. This wider range makes everything feel more authentic than the band’s earlier efforts, and that’s saying something.
Ultimately, this record shows what can go really right when artists push the boundaries. Times New Viking purists fear not, though, the grit’s still there and the edges are still rough; they’ve just dusted off the surface so you can see a bit more of the shine that’s been there all along.