Album Review: Dutch Uncles – “O Shudder”

Dutch Uncles
O Shudder
(Memphis Industries)

Everything is cyclical, so it makes sense that 80s music is incredibly in vogue. Synths are back and more abundant than ever, and, at least for the most part, the music has been a fun reminder of why the 80s was an enjoyable music era. We remember silly things like Van Halen and Boy George (basically everything from The Wedding Singer) and forget about groups like Talking Heads. Clearly English group Dutch Uncles has not forgotten. The band takes influence from a myriad of 80s pop and rock.  Dutck Uncles’ sound is similar to Wild Beasts, Bombay Bicycle Club, and maybe Hot Chip. It’s an interesting mix of dance-y, math-y, synth pop, but it’s not as fun or bombastic as its influences and points of reference would lead you to believe.

While most of the bands in the 80s revival are pushing towards everything big, bigger, and BIGGEST, Dutch Uncles feels quite minimalist. Synth lines are often subdued and light, possessing an almost airy quality. Vocalist Duncan Wallis has an even lighter falsetto that sounds undoubtedly shaky. I’m convinced it’s not so much active vibrato as it is the sound of a man recording vocals in the Arctic. His vocals are a definite asset, as Duncan can get powerful when he wants. The album is a bit of a concept album about an everyman that tries to figure out who he is only to grow disillusioned and unsure. It’s a narrative that will resonate well with twentysomethings who are experiencing that quarter-life crisis.

Thankfully, Dutch Uncles doesn’t have quite the same feelings of identity crisis. This interesting brand of indie pop feels somewhat progressive, in that songs flow best in the context of the full album and really only germinate with repeat listens. It’s not as hooky as Chvrches or as dance-floor ready as Hot Chip, but it’s smart, melodic, yet musically impressive. While they share little other than instruments with famous tour-mates Paramore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dutch Uncles become a household name sooner rather than later. (Nicholas Senior)

Purchase O Shudder here.

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