With the surf craze winding down, it’s refreshing to hear a band that knows where to take it. Brooklyn’s Dinosaur Feathers, originally a bedroom project for vocalist and guitarist Greg Sullo, released its 2009 debut Fantasy Memorial as a light, tropical affair laced with bright melodies and Beach Boy harmonies – pleasant but unobtrusive. Now a quartet, the band seeks new, more distinguished territory for its sophomore release. Whistle Tips is a surprisingly divergent record and in every way for the better.
Drawing influence ranging from The Soft Boys to Wings, Dinosaur Feathers have practically overhauled their sound. This is in large part aided by the presence of a live drummer which invigorates Sullo’s music, once bound to basic, programmed drum parts. The vintage surf influence is still there, but it is integrated into a much larger pallet where those Beach Boy harmonies are met with angular, sometimes jazzy riffs and an forceful rhythm section.
“Young Bucks” might open the album sounding like The Drums, but when the song ends and the listener has decided they’ve landed on just another pretty good indie-surf act, “SURPRISE!” does just that with a punk aggression and Sullo wailing in a way he simply couldn’t before (which sounds oddly like Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance at times, but not in a bad way). The song brings a sense of urgency to the record that the band takes to the end.
The rest of the Whistle Tips is dynamic and wildly creative. “Certain Times,” for instance, starts as elevator muzak and ends as a psychedelic freak out. Lead single “Untrue” gives listeners a fair look into Whistle Tips as a whole. Up front it kind of sounds like what the next Vampire Weekend record will sound like if they try to blend the spastic style of “Cousins” with the sunny sound of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” but at the end it morphs into a funky jam that sounds a little like if Yes made a record called On the Beach instead of Neil Young.
But while the band definitely likes putting some odd twists into their tunes, they are also quite capable of writing a streamlined song. The mellow vibes of “Boats” and the bouncy “Beatcha” establish their basic melodies up front and expand on them over their durations and the result is no less exciting and enjoyable than the wilder tracks. The latter features some of the best hooks on the record, accentuated by Sullo’s excellent and sparse use of falsetto.
As it stands, Whistle Tips is a fun and fairly fresh take on a lot of today’s popular sounds. The revamping of Dinosaur Feathers has definitely made them a band to keep an eye on. Their identity is still forming, so those influences do peer through sometimes. It’s not the influences themselves that get in the way so much as the disparity between them and that’s a good thing. These guys seem poised to break through that in the near future.
Dinosaur Feathers – Whistle Tips tracklist:
- “Young Bucks”
- “Certain Times”
- “City Living”
- “Cure for Silence”
- “Your Move”
- “No Man’s Gospel”