THE DOROTHY HERALDS – 100 Unnamed Things
The Dorothy Heralds’ debut album Projections was one of the best of 2003 and established them as one of Madison’s most singular outfits. Each song on the album was a different trip, like hop-scotching across musical genres. The band has so many talents and such a breadth of musical knowledge and technical abilities that they became a bit stymied when it WAS time to record the follow-up. They contacted several of their professional peers around town, soliciting production notes and feedback on some of the songs they had been demo-ing earlier this year. I believe that in the end, they assembled all of the comments and opinions but ultimately decided that they just couldn’t avoid being themselves and perhaps they became okay with that.
100 Unnamed Things is a triumph for the band. They managed to take all of their eclectic influences (rock, electronic, jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, pop, progressive) and instead of focusing on a style for a particular song, have fused all these elements into the band’s overall identity. What they have now is an unmistakably exotic, highly technical and supremely musical character, one that is undeniably the Dorothy Heralds. Singer Katy Rykken has always been identifiable but the maturation of her voice over the last couple of years is remarkable. Where she once sounded flighty, she sounds powerful; where she once sounded girlish, she sounds womanly and wise; where she once sounded shrill she has rich and emotive tone. And there are some fantastic vocal melodies on 100 Unnamed Things.
Each member of the band has really improved their game. Kevin Lozada’s keyboard work is exemplary; rich, varied and often beautiful. Matt Nelson is a quiet magician on the guitar. As with Projections, there is only one true “solo” on the whole album. Nelson is able to conjure some awfully cool sounds, lurking around in the middle of the mix, using a multitude of special effects, and always artfully. He and Lozada never resort to bombast but are able to mix their colors together to paint a tastefully complex aural landscape. Gary Chin is a renowned bassist and has been in something like 100 unnamed bands. He can play anything, but what he really excels at is bringing that super-powerful low-end punch. Check out his monstrous tone on “City of Stars and Light.” Robert Schoville (Reptile Palace Orchestra, Handphibians) is an incredible fit for the Dorothy Heralds although he serves as a recording member only on this album, filling in on drums for the recently departed Rick Horton. Tim Russell has since joined ranks as the band’s new drummer.
Not a weak track can be found on this album, but even so there are a few standouts. “Shine” opens the disc and is immensely uplifting melodically and lyrically. “Play” is a sure-fire hit with a killer hook in the chorus. This is one of those songs that you can’t turn up loud enough. An examination of the music business, it incorporates a spoken-word middle section to great effect. If ever there was a song that could use a surround sound mix it would be “One of These Days.” There are some captivating special effects swirling around in the far ends of the stereo field. This is a very cool tune that floats between different feels – reggae, salsa, jazz, urban and hard pop. The keyboard strings on the coda are dramatic and completely unexpected, fading the track out on a classical note. The opening strains of “White” sound like a flower bending toward the sun, a graceful fill of cascading harmonics by Nelson is one of the best moments on the whole album. “Nora” is the album’s masterpiece, a mid-tempo pop melody and another undeniable winner. The tremolo guitar set against Lozada’s harpsichord makes for musical intrigue. Rob Dz guests, rapping through the bridge section. Another massive vocal hook on the chorus seals the deal.
This album is an engineering (Mark Whitcomb) and mixing (Bill Collins) marvel, one of the best to emerge from DNA Studios. Nearly a year in the making and nearly three years since Projections, 100 Unnamed Things was well worth the wait and you should not hesitate to snap it up.