Northern Transmissions' review of 'Blackout Summer' by Dusted

Polyvinyl Record Co.

8.5/10

Dusted

Blackout Summer

There’s so many conventions of pop that we’ve grown tired of these days, that it’s refreshing to see a band like Dusted really trying to expand the framework of sound and composition in rock. Between the warm and hard hitting moments on their first album in about six years, the sonic influence of Brian Borcherdt’s work in Holy Fuck has sunk into his solo work in powerful ways. Though there are some more predictable moments in the album, it really hits emotional highs like few other albums.

Rich and sunny guitars let the album bloom on “Seasons” as the slow-moving energy slowly turns into a synth-laden pop track. Even through its darkest moments, Brian Borcherdt’s solemn vocals bring out a lush emotional one-two-punch that will move you endlessly. Just when you think the song is getting predictable, Borcherdt’s voice hits a soaring high oo that will give you goose bumps. The shimmering keys and raw bass also give the rest of the track a cool and relaxed energy to make each of these loud moments all the more climactic.

“Backwoods Ritual” speeds things up for a straightforward indie-rock romp full of spiraling soundscapes and a beat that will get you up and going. Even simplifying their sound down to this rudimentary rock, Dusted make a deep sound and hit you with a complex sense of longing. Dusted finds the best of both worlds on “All I Am” as their smoky guitars gain the sinister energy of a pulsating and distorted synth. Though there’s definitely more of a known quantity in the writing, the lavish detail they add to the percussion, harmonies and little touches of feedback really set this song apart.

There’s a heavy sense of regret to “Cut Corners” as Borcherdt seems to feel run down trying to help a friend get things together. While the song does take a more meditative approach to its writing, the way it expands and evolves its background energy is really something else. “Will Not Disappear” brings Borcherdt’s tender vocal delivery back into focus, as his vulnerable hums cut through with gut-wrenching force. Interestingly enough, despite how inundated indie music has been with organs over the past decade, the way Dusted switched between the guitars and keys really make each instrument’s peak moments feel sharp and personal.

“Dead Eyes” comes out with its perplexing electronic energy, that slowly provides a chilling base for Borcherdt to tell a personal story on. With such an unusual take on the electronic-infused rock sound, the band creates a kind of dying energy in the track that suggests reaching an ultimatum. Though this would start to get old, they really expand things out as the song moves on to let the guitars command the track’s emotional core.

Even in its folk rock energy, “No Prison” has a menacing beat that will make you want to stomp with it, despite its calming guitar flow. As the song moves along however, it’s clear the blown-out bass sound is the lead energy and that the band is trying to push their anger as far as it will go. The very human and soft centre to “Five Hundred and Four” is what makes its recognizable crooning feel so fresh. Though it doesn’t do too much to move past it, the band’s usual mix of dynamic textures really keeps the song going.

While “Outline of A Wolf” seems to initially hit the same generic roadblocks of some of the later tracks on this album, the layered waves of instrumentation turn the song into a melodic machine. Through the twisted vocal mixing and delivery and the endless guitars, they manage to make even the simplest hook feel fresh. It’s with all these added elements however that they turn the end of the album into an experimental climax that transcends tone and simple melodic writing.

Words by Owen Maxwell