In the world of music, it’s hard to be a long running band that keeps a sound that caters to your original “die hards”, while also bringing something fresh to gather a wider audience. It either goes stale or the new stuff possibly loses your interest. After 9 releases and 10+ years of experience, can Dance Gavin Dance hold up to these standards? It is all personal preference in the end, but if you’re reading this for my opinion, well then. Let’s start.
Artificial Selection is the 9th release from Dance Gavin Dance, a band who seems to be continuously involved with hammering out music and touring. They have a lot of juice for their music, but is that juice wearing out? It really doesn’t seem like it. In fact, the juice seems to have gotten better. Before we get into this, keep in my mind these are all my thoughts and feelings about the album. You may not see eye to eye with me here and that’s okay!
Now, I think in order for this to really be explainedproperly, we should dive into it track by track.
Son Of Robot
This was the second single off Artificial Selection, and my first thought: Zelda (Great Fairy Fountains, am I right?) The verse is carried on with Jon Mess (screaming vocalist) and the band showing some signature DGD hype. When Tilian Pearson (clean vocalist) makes his first appearance on the song, he is complimented by what I can only describe as a “Super Mario”riff. Will Swan (guitar) must’ve been feeling those Nintendo vibes for this track. The chorus in the song is extremely powerful. There’s a spot where Tilian and Matt Mingus (drums)correlate to push the feel of the song. Matt changes the snare pattern for just a moment to accent what Tilian has to say. Really great to hear Jon reference The Robot With Human Hair and tell us a detailed story about what is really going on with the series. Classic Mess. This song features Jessica Esposito on flute and bassoon. 8.5/10
First single released off Artificial Selection, and it was a safe one! Not in a bad way by any means. The one thing that really stands out most for me in this song is Tim Feerick (bass). His tone is perfect for this and his playing is even better. This is probably one of the most “simple” DGD songs for Matt and Will, but they are ripping nonetheless. The song also features Martin Bianchini (Secret Band) on guitar. The ending was the kick we needed. If you pay attention, Jon has an identical swagger to those rappers who enjoy slow triplet rhythms. Is this a bad thing? Hell no! The way his voice flows with the instrumentals is some top notch stuff! As a whole, I would rate this as my least favorite song on the album. But I promise. This means pretty much nothing. 8/10
Suspended In This Disaster:
By this point in the album, I have no clue what is coming next and then.. Oh. Shit. That intro. Will Swan pops off with one of the most intense licks and he continually delivers throughout the whole song (and the whole album, honestly). I get a lot of Downtown Battle Mountain 2 (2011) meets Mothership (2016)vibes from this. They show off an excellent blend of groove, heaviness, and all around feel. Tilian does some serious soul touching here, specifically in the second verse and the chorus. If you’re a musician, you may notice a little spot that portrays itself as 4/4 the whole way through, but listen close. You’ll hear the meters change from 5 (or 10, however you want to count it) to 4 to 7, all while still holding a catch. This song shows stunning potential for the rest of the album. 9/10
This is supposedly to be the third single, which at this point is waiting to be officially released. It features Zachary Garren(Strawberry Girls) teaming up with Will on guitar once again.How do I best describe this? Unexpectedly epic. The intro is beautifully put together. It has this dreamy aspect that I feel like is a key sound they’re pushing in this album, kind of like howit’s predecessor Mothership pushed the darker tones a little more. Nothing hits the nerves quite like Jon coming in, “Iremember you back in the day.” As a drummer, I absolutely love Mingus throughout this whole song. At one point, the man busts out some bongos to be followed by a tight groove with Will and Tim. I can see this one becoming a must play live. 9/10
Everyone was expecting something super jazzy, due to the name relating to the late great Count Bassie. Tricked. Instead you get one of the most “thug” verses from the band. Not even necessarily in the lyrics, it’s the sound. Matt created one of thecatchiest beats for this verse, displaying how he speaks through the drums even when it’s simple. Listen for that kazoo in there too from Jessica Esposito. The chorus is a perfect example of how DGD can do these certain little mood changes while keeping the song cohesive. At the end, you learn why it’s called Count Bassy. Tim Feerick, you DOG. This is truly a spectacular song for the rhythm section. 9/10
The triforce! Jon, Will, and Matt come in showing the unique chemistry they have built together over the past decade. Tim holds off till the chorus to really make it pop. “Sometimes, it’s about what you don’t play.” I think this saying applies in this particular instance. I do think the chorus could’ve been dwindled down to two choruses rather than three, but it’s really a minor complaint. The song is still enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite part is easily this section where it seems like Tilian, Tim, and Matt have a moment. It’s a little pop verse with an intricate groove. Hopefully you catch what I mean. 8/10
FUCK YEAH! JON SONG! Tim and Matt bring that rhythm section heat once again for Jon to spit it like no other. I love how interesting the mood changes are here, and Will’s signature style plays a huge role with this. His guitar masterfully transitions part to part, leaving you baffled at the work that really goes into this. Tilian surprises you with some soaring vocals right before Jon dives back into.. Being Jon Mess. He’s going to use your face like a dumbass rattle. This song getsrowdy! 9.5/10
Did you miss hearing Kurt Travis (Royal Coda, plus a million other projects) sing with Dance Gavin Dance? Hey! Me too. Hard to call this a feature when he gets two thirds of the song. Tilian let’s Kurt take it, only to add such sweet vocal melodies/harmonies to compliment the feel of the song graciously. The song dives more into those dreamy feels we have been getting throughout the album. We are blessed with a small taste of Kurt and DGD hitting some Happiness (2009)territory. Not the funky area, but the emotional aspect. Jon Mess really gets to steal the show with his parts on here though.Everytime he comes up, I get chills. 9/10
Bass, baby. Seriously, Tim Feerick. What were you on for this album? Those effects, the notes, the rhythm. All ingredients that make this bass part great. The band reminisce to their songPowder To The People here, mostly in the way it drives. Oh and then whaaa? Yup. Switch up. They half time it for Mess to really get in the zone. I have to take a moment to compliment Jon’srhythm, diction, and tone on this album. I can personally pick out quite a few of the lyrics myself, but I think fans will agree his rhythm is all around grade A material here. The band dives into some heavy territory where the guitar shows no boundaries, leaving you no choice but to let loose! 9/10
Story Of My Bros:
DGD Goes Pop Punk! Ha HAAA! But seriously, they pop punk’d hard for this track. And the results? Pretty damn sweet. It’s not like they just hung up the Dance Gavin Dance sound for this one. It’s there. You even have Jon Mess talking about smoking weed out of a pussy filled with.. I don’t even know, I’ll figure it out later when I actually have the lyrics. Tilian’s break is hitting, and the way Tim’s bass comes into compliment it makes it hit even harder. I’ve always been a fan of Jon’s self-references within certain albums, so it was nice to receive one here. 8/10
Slick, right out the gate. Mingus is on it with this beat! Unleashed like no other. Again, Mess displays more interesting screaming rhythms and little tone changes. Will rides his riff like a train into what I imagine as the part that best resembles the album artwork. The first time I heard this, I just saw it in my head so perfectly. This is one of the more “fun” songs on the album. And it sounds like some of the lyrics might actually fit the title here. Going to be a great one to get ready to. 9/10
Interesting beat! Real awesome snare and bass drum placements. If you are expecting more hype right off the bat like our last track, well then just chill for a wee bit. The vibes become a lot happier, with not so happy lyrics. And the contrast is well thought out. Tim delivers some pristine bass effects with this one. The chorus has got to be one of their most experimental ones in a few different ways. We get to see a signature Jon Mess vocal style here, where he pushes notes through his screams. But the best part of this whole song? Tilian Pearson’s bridge. Not only is he slaying it, but we have a reappearance from Jessica Esposito on the flute to provide an amazing feel to the song. The end wraps it up with chills down your arms. 9.5/10
Greeted with some 7/4 and.. No Will Swan?! It’s true. For this one, Will passes the torch to Andrew Wells (Eidola) and Martin Bianchini (Secret Band), making Matt Mingus the onlymember to appear on every Dance Gavin Dance song. Does it work? Well, Will wouldn’t let it pass without approval I’m sure. The song delivers haunting vibes, and Tilian adds to it with some pretty serious lyrics. And believe me when I say, he has some shit to say. The chorus is repeated 3 times, but it serves purpose. It allows Tilian to add a segment each time, making the message stick that much more with the listener. Andrew and Martin did an excellent job with the guitar for this track, specifically right before the last chorus till the end. 8.5/10
GRITTTTY AAAANND… Fooled again! You damn mood changers, you. I mean that in the most respectable way because this is easily my favorite song on the album, probably one of my favorite songs ever by them. Wow. That guitar effect is so fresh and emotional. Perfect choice, Will. It keeps raining over the song while Matt builds us up for what I am calling an ambient breakdown for now. This is some pure emotion. Andrew Wells’ vocal feature on this is absolutely phenomenal. I love knowing that this was once a fan back in 2007, and now he gets to sing a song with one of his favorite bands. That makes it all hit so much harder, especailly hearing the band just kill it under his voice. The impact. The lyrics and the way Jon screams right after Tilian will leave a passionate listener shook for sure. I’m going to stop here because you just need to hear it without metelling too much on it. You’ll know when you get there. If not, well. Time to do research. This closer easily earns an 11/10.
So, it’s safe to say that Dance Gavin Dance has not fallen off, nor do they intend on doing so. This could honestly be their best album to date. With how much these guys work and how fast they do it, you’d think they’d run out of ideas. But nope.
The production on this album plays a HUGE part in the overall sound and helps gives clarity in even DGD’s most chaotic areas. They tried different producers for different things and it all came together in unison. I wish I had more info on who was featured on what songs, because I know Andrew Wells plays guitar on two others song and Louie Baltazar plays guitaron a song. I don’t have info on which ones, so I can’t properly credit them.
The songs speak a lot about where DGD is right now. Some people are going to hear this album as a mainstream approach, and you could possibly be right. Who knows. But there’s no way in hell I would say that they are selling out in this process. This album compiles elements from every release they’ve made while still bringing fresh and new tastes. Literally every member of this band (plus the features) brought their all for this. TilianPearson and Tim Feerick make it clear that they are here to stay after DGD’s longest running lineup with no changes. I can honestly say I am proud to have had these guys as my favorite band for 8 years. As a whole, Artificial Selection is an absolutely incredible album that I highly recommend. I have no problem saying it’s an A+ listen.