“Talker”, from Columbia’s Dear Blanca, brings crashing new dishes to the indie rock table and succeeds in delivering a satisfying meal to those expecting more than the leftovers piled on our plates by modern radio. Dylan Dickerson powers the melee, his perfect singular warble at once nervous and passionate. His great precarious guitar parts choke the life out of melodies and then raise them back up in the next breath to instant hummability. Dear Blanca have been compared to the Minutemen and you can hear the quiet howling force of D. Boon in Dickerson’s vocals, but the guitar feels more refined and linear, reminding me of seminal punk like Television. Coming from the same place as Modest Mouse, with a pop sensibility not-so-hidden underneath the coating of unconventional sounds, Dear Blanca are going to bake the cake and eat it, too. I could also see fans of modern indie bands like Speedy Ortiz, No Age or the Men digging the experimental nature of “Talker”, although Dickerson and company are less noisy and more ambitious than those bands. The prevalent use of saxophones throughout this disc is slightly unusual but never sounds like a freak-out for the sake of a freak-out; their positioning in the songs forms a great underlying melodic sense.
Opener “Moving to Texas” has stateless, solid-yet-liquid riffs, great backing vocals and a definite Minutemen feel. The languid sax breaks in “Griping” break down into animated rave-ups and then back again, leaving the listener with plenty of instrumentation to digest. “Musclehead” has a badass-catchy chorus courtesy of Dayne Lee that seems to strong-arm the rambling instrumentation back into focus with its sharp hooks. The tromping post punk of “A-HA” and the mournful look at the fatal car crash of a friend in “King of Salters” lead us to “Havana Tonight”, a grieving and personal but transcendental tribute to Dickerson’s grandmother driven by the ever-present horns. The last track, “Hunny (Don’t Mind If I Tao)” alternates between a fierce attack and easy movements and it’s a demonstration of why the dynamics that power the band are one of their key weapons.
I remember being shocked by the success of Modest Mouse with a mainstream audience after listening to them roll under the pop radar for so many years, never expecting their out-there playing and singing to become acceptable with a general audience. With the right kind of exposure, I would not be surprised to see that same kind of appreciation being heaped unto Dear Blanca. They are that good and hopefully more people will take notice.
Recommended if you like: Television, The Minutemen, Modest Mouse
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.