Doves are a bunch of soft-spoken, reverb-loving lads from the UK, but thankfully, they’re not simply another Coldplay derivative. Despite its nods to the obvious influences, their sound, a quirky mixture of equal parts pop and moody atmosphere, is uniquely their own. Crafted more by the group’s collective funky persona than, say, Radiohead’s oft-copied landmark The Bends. The group’s latest effort, Some Cities, has this foggy sound reaching its creative apex: the dense, headphone-filling pop of this album is, at times, among the best the group has written during its five-year career. Sadly, only about half of the album fits this description. The rest of Some Cities is a frustrating mix of lukewarm space oddities and amorphous rock tracks that inevitably hurts the outing as a whole.
The album opens with the title track, a slow-burning, straight-ahead rocker washed in ’60s fuzz and reminiscent of the loose confidence of The Walkmen or early U2. The listener gets a glimpse at how Doves operate here: Like many of Some Cities’ finest, the song is one constant crescendo guided by vocalist Jimi Goodwin’s ugly, yet elegant, knack for melody. The band allows this song to sputter out at its climax, ushering in the pounding drums of “Black and White Town,” the album’s lead single. With Goodwin again at center stage, the track’s climbing verse explodes into a monstrosity of a chorus, a sun-soaked mix of jangly guitars and percussive piano that begs to be blasted.
After breaking in the album with two standard rock anthems, Doves travel into a spacey midsection. Highlighting this section is “Snowden,” a lush glacial ballad. Its textured construction is standard Doves: a reverb-rich, huge soundfield filled with bleeping electronics and glockenspiels, a softly strummed acoustic guitar, Goodwin’s soothing vocals and an unearthly high-pitched, soaring guitar. “Almost Forgot Myself” is a funky concoction that blends a little bit of quirky organ-laden soul with liquefied guitars and delayed vocals.
Frustratingly, between the brilliance of the opening four tracks and the closing combo of the optimistic “Sky Starts Falling” and the drugged-out lullaby “Ambition,” Some Cities doesn’t offer anything of the same caliber. Sandwiched in the middle are a handful of mediocre tracks that, for the most part, weaken progressively upon further listens. The anxious “One of These Days,” rocks harder than anything else on the disc but suffers due to numerous momentum-killing passages and lack of a definable hook. “Walk in Fire,” while punchy, is essentially a retread of the band’s earlier hit “There Goes the Fear.” And some of the tracks are just boring, such as the sparsely lo-fi “Shadows of Salford” and the aimless “Someday Soon,” which sound like unfinished B-sides with A-side studio polish.
Despite a few lackluster spots, Doves deserve credit for the flexibility they show on Some Cities. This album, while blending signature ideas from the group’s many influences, comes across as an original product, not bland mimicry. Likewise, the group’s sonic shape-shifting from guitar rock to lunar weirdness on one track to the next is a welcome alternative to stagnation, even if the band falls on its face occasionally. But ultimately, Some Cities is little more than an occasionally great, anthemic pop release with major consistency issues.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars