Since releasing their debut album Electric Toys in 2010, New York City based indie-rockers The Dig have garnered a fair amount of critical praise. Though their albums do a great job of creating a different overall feel from each other, they also carry a similar thread of utilizing both instruments and vocals to create atmospheric elements to their songs. Bassist Emile Mosseri and guitarist David Baldwin share lead vocals and along with Erick Eiser (keys) share songwriting duties. And while and they make it sound so seamless, it’s all but impossible to attribute authorship to either one and many times to tell each singer apart. With the release of their new LP Bloodshot Tokyo, the band tries on a more rhythmic, synth-driven approach to songwriting and it looks good on them.
After opening up the album with the one minute “Intro (Ordinary Mind)” that incorporates multiple vocal harmonies sung over a piano melody, a series of sci-fi sound effects launch into “Jet Black Hair”, which does a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the album. From the beginning it is clear that the standard guitar riffs and general shoegaze elements that had marked The Dig’s previous releases are going to take a backseat to a more dancey and synth-forward approach on Bloodshot Tokyo. It’s not that guitars aren’t present on this album, but more that they are mostly heard making effects and providing atmosphere in the background. Such is the case in the track “Astronaut”, where the melody is driven by a bright sounding piano reminiscent of Starsailor while synths and an effect laden guitar play quietly in the background and the singer sings in a high falsetto.
Most tracks on Bloodshot Tokyo continue in the vein of an overall grooving feeling, incorporating elements of disco, funk, and electronica. “Let Your Lover Know” implements all of those musical archetypes and almost sounds like Daft Punk covering John Lennon. With most tracks on the album utilizing these elements, it really helps tracks like “Tired of Love” and “Simple Love” stand out. The former is the closest to sounding like their previous work with a slower tempo than other songs on the album and more straightforward vocals and beats. While “Simple Love” relies on an organ to carry the melody and the rhythm section provides a shuffling cadence, making it hard not to nod along. The album aptly draws to a close with “Over the Rails” which feels more like a ballad than anything else. The song alternates between piano melodies and synth/vocal harmonies in the verses and more syncopated synth notes and vocal harmonies backed by the entire band during the chorus.
There is little doubt that The Dig decided to take their sound in a new direction on Bloodshot Tokyo and it seems to pay off. While comparisons to Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, and shoegaze have surrounded their previous work, Bloodshot Tokyo finds The Dig coming more and more into their own. Fans of their erstwhile release may have a difficult time digesting this new direction, but it would not be surprising to see The Dig pick up many more new fans.