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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Badlands LP: Reviews

Bao Le Hu, Orlando Weekly       

       Indeed, Hungtai deftly invokes all the requisite touchstones like echoes, hiss and distortion. Despite this blurred palette, there's a sharp distillation to the vision behind Dirty Beaches' new 
album, Badlands.
     A vibrant, colorful language, ranging from enigmatic film scores ("Black Nylon," "Hotel") to rock & roll kitsch (rockabilly, surf and oldies) percolates through the vintage lo-fi haze. Key to the album's vitality is the raw conviction of Hungtai's voice. Whether it's his tenderly arabesque crooning on the crestfallen "True Blue" or the rockabilly histrionics of primal surf drones like "Horses" and "Sweet 17," he brings a human heat to the 
restless vagueness.
     Most importantly, Hungtai's vocals and critical instrumental hooks aren't nearly as buried in the mix as is the output of many of his peers. In fact, repeated listens reveal a considerable degree of care in sonic proportioning, separating the punctuation from the patina. This judiciousness is epitomized by "A Hundred Highways," a song made exceptional by the ribs of damaged guitar noise, Hungtai's romantic purring and the signature bass line from Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him."
    But when you boil things all the way down to the bone like Dirty Beaches does, the risk is that there may not be much skeleton to show. The razor-thin margin of error of this starkly minimalist approach is what makes Badlands all the more miraculous. And instead of simply being stylishly dissociative, the album's austerity quivers with pulse, spirit and scuffed mystique.

   Read Bao Le-Huu, This Little Underground column in the Orlando Weekly.  Oh and, local journalists- this is how you do it, in case you were wondering.

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