Dance Gavin Dance

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Earlier this year Dance Gavin Dance released their 8th album titled ‘Artificial Selection’. They’ve been on a crazy hot streak for the last couple years and I’m surprised by how great of a follow up this is to ‘Mothership’.

‘Artificial Selection’ definitely ranks towards the top of their discography, but there’s so much going on here that it’ll take some time to see where it settles overall. One major plus is that the album has 14 songs (53 minutes!), which is incredible.

I’ll talk about the highlight songs and what makes them so great, but first I want to note the importance of listening to albums like this in two modes. One is analytical and the other is purely for enjoyment. One of the great things about ‘Artificial Selection’ is that you’ll certainly be impressed if you pay attention, but you can enjoy the hell out of it by passively listening to it too. I actually enjoy albums like this more when I have it on a loop in the background.

This album cements Tilian as my favorite clean singer that DGD has ever had. His vocals bring so much to the table and a couple of my favorites on here are purely because of his chorus. At the same time, the more I listen to DGD the more I realize that Jon’s screams are actually meant to act more like an instrument. His lyrics are nonsense, and that’s the point. He’s there to build the intensity and offer a great contrast to highlight Tilian’s singing.

This is an extremely strong album and I wouldn’t be surprised if everybody ends up having a different favorite song. I love “Son of Robot” and “Midnight Crusade” because I think Tilian’s vocals, and the way Jon interrupts them, is DGD’s peak sound. And while “Count Bassy” is my least favorite, I’ve seen lots of people say it’s their favorite. I think that’s one indicator of a great album.

-“Son of Robot” is the perfect start to the album. The peaceful intro that suddenly explodes into chaos sets the tone for the record and lets us know DGD isn’t messing around. I can’t get enough of Tilian’s soaring cleans, and the way Jon Mess’ screams repeatedly interject makes it one of my favorites on the album. Plus it adds to the robot with the human hair story so that’s cool.

-“Midnight Crusade” is another favorite because Tilian and Jon use the same vocal style as on Son of Robot. Plus, I’ll love anything that has Tilian rocking a catchy chorus, especially if he starts pushing into his harsher, grittier range as if he’s almost yelling.

-“Care” is one of the softer songs on the album, and surprisingly I’m really into it. I normally ignore softer songs, but I can’t get over the chorus. It also highlights DGD’s grooviness and you can hear them experiment a little. As a side note, this is one of the only DGD songs I can think of where Jon’s lyrics actually go with what Tilian is singing which threw me off at first.

-“Count Bassy” will likely be one of the most argued about songs. Personally, it’s my least favorite, because instrumentally it doesn’t really match what Tilian is doing for the first half of the song. DGD is normally upbeat but this song is weirdly downtuned and the drums are too heavy when Tilian is singing which feels out of place. It doesn’t come alive until Jon comes in at the end, but by then it’s too late.

-“Flash” is a solid recovery and returns to DGD’s classic style. It’s a great example of Jon Mess’ screams being more like an instrument than actual singing. Any longtime fan knows that Jon’s lyrics are mostly nonsense, but “Flash” is a good example of the value he still adds in terms of the intensity.

-“The Rattler” is another favorite of mine. I’d say it’s the heaviest on the album and it’s pure energy. In a lot of ways it reminds me of a band called Vanna (and letlive. to a lesser degree) which is a massive compliment. It shouldn’t be too surprising though; a couple of DGD’s members (including Jon Mess) have a side project called Secret Band that uses this heavier sound all the time.

-“Shelf Life” is decent; I’m mostly mentioning it because it features Kurt Travis, who did vocals in the second and third DGD album. The song is basically a throwback to their older sound and it’s cool to see how far they’ve come.

-At some point I think “Slouch” will be everyone’s favorite song. It’s upbeat and the seamless transition between cleans and screams makes it easy to listen to. You can’t go wrong with DGD’s signature style and the way Jon comes in extra hard at the end is great.

-“Story Of My Bros” is exactly what DGD would sound like if they were a pop punk band. It’s fast paced and has an uplifting feel which puts it in the category of DGD songs that feel like summertime and are easy to listen to.

-“Hair Song” mixes some of the heavy elements with the groovy ones and it isn’t surprising it’s already a crowd favorite. The interlude halfway through is a nice break and lets Jon make a heavy return. The grooves in his vocals are the highlight of this one.

-“Bloodsucker” reminds me a bit of “The Rattler” and I think DGD is at its best when they play fast and have Tilian’s cleans carry the song while Jon interrupts to introduce some chaos. Tilian’s cleans are just so good; having the song revolve around his parts is never a bad thing because it lets Jon go wild before returning to a solid chorus.

-“Evaporate” ends the album the same way it started, with an intense opener by Jon, followed by Tilian connecting everything with his cleans. His ability to sing over intense instruments lets Jon begin screaming without a transition, and that’s one of the biggest highlights for me. As another throwback for longtime fans, the end contains lyrics from six previous songs and it’s a pretty epic outro.

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