Music comes in all shapes and sizes: short and bombastic, long and heady, intimate and minimalistic. There’s no blueprint to the perfect song. Beyond the ability to carry a tune and a spark of creativity, quality in music is subject to taste.
To succeed, aspiring artists can incorporate everyone’s favorite adjective to please the masses or try to etch out their own niche. The better approach, and more difficult one, is to make something new that people connect with like a future best friend when the first note hits their ears.
Brooklyn band The Dig somehow bridges the gap between something new and the familiar. Their music is breezy, yet harsh.
Their song arrangements ebb and flow to an amiable groove, frequently broken by crashing guitars. In the hands of a lesser band the whole affair would sound like a mess, but the musicians make the entire process seem effortless. That’s a doubly good compliment, seeing as the The Dig only has one LP and a full CD, Electric Toys, under their belt.
Part of the reason they sound so fully formed is because three of the four band members had played together before The Dig was even a thought. Vocalist/bassist Emile Mosseri and vocalist/guitarist David Baldwin grew up playing music together in New York City and found keyboardist/guitarist Erik Eiser during their high school days at a Guitar Center in Boston. The three went on to play in a 12-piece funk band called Honey Nut Roasted for a few years and would eventually leave to form The Dig with drummer Jamie Alegre.
Listening to their full length album and watching their performances on YouTube, the chemistry is clear. The band is set up like a funk group with the bass amped up and Eiser’s keyboard layering in synth tones and piano melodies. The band makes full use of their power pop set up with Eiser jumping to guitar when songs rise to a climax. The effect is beautiful.
It’s akin to being in a foreboding Gothic cathedral with a choir’s vocals bouncing off the walls, but they’re interrupted by exploding stain glass windows.
“Carry Me Home” from Electric Toys is a great example of the band’s dynamics with its constant build and denouncement. It starts with a pretty piano melody backed by an ethereal hum. Drums and bass come in with a mid-tempo syncopated rhythm and it builds into a hopeful chorus, backs down into a verse, revs up into the chorus again, backs down and then finally explodes into a discordant mash of guitar solo and power cords. Then, it backs out gracefully with delicate vocals asking, “Are the people going to carry me home to you?” The songwriting performs the difficult feat of taking the listener on a journey they’ll want to revisit as oppose to songs that eventually stagnate.
Lyrical themes don’t deviate from the topics of relationships and sex, but the band gets considerable mileage out of these familiar tropes with superior lyrics and vocals. Stories of jealous sisters, jail time, waking up to an empty bed, evil women and unrequited love are tweaked just enough to make them new again.
A prime example of a familiar topic done right is the track “For All Your Sins.” It’s about a guy who “loved a girl from the lake of fire.” Unsurprisingly, she abuses him and leaves. The twist however is instead of crying about it or writing a litany of reasons why she is a terrible person in song, he straight up murders and buries her in the woods. Unfortunately for the guy, someone finds the body and the song ends with this creepy last line, “They’ll put you down for all of your sins, and then you’ll see her again.” It’s spooky and original.
The Dig sounds like a band that has been together for ages and gelled into a perfect unit. They take risks, their songs are complex and they do it all without a single element sounding out of place. The result is music that will fascinate and entertain. It’s music listeners want to get lost in and explore.