Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dntel - "Dumb Luck" (LP review)

"Dntel" is one of the personas of James Scott Tamborello, another one being "James Figurine" (of Figurine). Although he's had other projects/bands as well, Tamborello is probably best well-known for creating The Postal Service, along with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. In fact, The Postal Service was created because of how well Gibbard's guest vocals were received on "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" from Dntel's 2001 LP, "Life is Full of Possibilities". I have Johan to thank for introducing me to The Postal Service and Dntel.

Conventional wisdom states that Dntel's 2007 follow-up, "Dumb Luck", is not as good as LIFOP. Perhaps this is because of high expectations resulting from the 6 year wait, or comparison with The Postal Service's acclaimed releases in the interim. Perhaps the fact that Dntel switched labels from the tiny Plug Research to "major-indie" Sub Pop. I, however, think "Dumb Luck" is an extraordinary LP that surpasses LIFOP. On the whole, Dumb Luck's songs are slightly less experimental than those on LIFOP, but for me it makes for a more enjoyable start to finish listen.

It begins with
Tamborello enlisting the help of a veritable who's who of indie, electropop, alternative country, electroacoutistic and related genres. Some of these artists he's collaborated with before, but some are new. Pulling the track listing from Wikipedia:

  1. "Dumb Luck"
  2. "To a Fault" [ft. Grizzly Bear]
  3. "I'd Like to Know" [ft. Lali Puna]
  4. "Roll On" [ft. Jenny Lewis]
  5. "The Distance" [ft. Arthur & Yu]
  6. "Rock My Boat" [ft. Mia Doi Todd]
  7. "Natural Resources" [ft. Andrew Broder of Fog]
  8. "Breakfast in Bed" [ft. Conor Oberst]
  9. "Dreams" [ft. Mystic Chords of Memory]
  10. "Everything's Tricks"

FYI: my copy (and perhaps yours too) does not have the last track "Everything's Tricks".

The title track, which does not feature a guest artist, is very much in the "Glitch" sound of LIFOP. But even this song, despite its surface noise, is very listenable even to those that don't like electronica noise. And while there are no tracks I skip on my iPod, there are two amazing songs that I often rewind and play again and again before continuing with the rest of the LP. "Roll On" with Jenny Lewis is the most captivating combination of electronica and country you'll ever hear. In a perfect world, this song would be a cross-over hit on the pop charts.

The other track is Conor Oberst's "Breakfast in Bed", which tells a touching, if dark and disturbing story of a new relationship. The lyrics "If this is all a game can you just say it is / I'll do it anyway so it makes no difference" make me think of Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything": "One question: do you need... someone, or do you need me?... Forget it, I don't really care."

Standout Tracks: Roll On, Breakfast in Bed, Rock My Boat, Dumb Luck, Natural Resources, The Distance. (Find the rest of the audio tracks at

Skip 'em Tracks: None.

Final Score: 10/10

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