On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
Dominant Legs, a duo consisting of Ryan Lynch (Girls) and Hannah Hunt, creates some of the most unaffected, subtly contagious music I’ve ever heard. Jangle-infused synth-pop would be a feeble, generic way to describe the sounds on Young at Love and Life, and herein lies the difficulty with reviewing this four-song EP. The songs succeed so naturally, nailing words to them feels counter-intuitive. If this sounds grandiose, listen to the record a few times and see what happens.
The perceived shortcomings of these songs rapidly morph into strengths, which stands as one of the most fascinating aspects of this clutch of compositions. Initially, Dominant Legs’ use of simplistic drum machines and Ryan Lynch’s shaky, hesitant vocal delivery raise the flag of amateurism. However, less than a minute into lead-off track “Young at Love and Life,” discerning listeners hear the duo for what they are: products of music made in an honest, direct way. Only two-and-a-half minutes long, this title track functions as a perfect introduction. It includes all of Dominant Legs’ defining elements: lovely vocal interplay between Lynch and Hunt, bittersweet lyrics, and tastefully simple song structure.
“Clawing Out the Walls,” the EP’s second track, is a stunning lurch forward, both sonically and structurally. Repetitive bongo sounds give way to Lynch’s graceful, Johnny Marr-inflected guitar playing, a bass line reminiscent of Motown hits, and the strongest vocal performances in this song cycle. It’s hard to doubt a sincerity that never becomes sentimentalized or off-putting, as Lynch asks, “And do you ever think of starting over, everything you began?”
Avoiding redundancy by slightly varying its consistent sounds, “About My Girls,” a song picked by members of The Smith Westerns as their favorite of last year, revisits and modifies the dynamics found on the opener. Hunt’s layered vocals and keyboard support Lynch’s lovesick delivery on lines like, “I just can’t seem to forget about my girls,” and, “I’m a man of simple pleasures.” It’s a hazy, dreamy ode to being in love with love. The folk-tinged “Run Like Hell for Leather” provides a somber closing for the EP. Certainly the richest song on here, it recalls the percussion of “Clawing Out the Walls” but explores darker territory and more textured sounds.
No one could accuse Dominant Legs of making vacuous, calculated music, which is something rare in this era of blog-buzzed bands. Young at Love and Life asks for a patient, discerning ear, and brings more rewards with each listen. This release still seems a bit slept on, but hopefully that’ll change as Dominant Legs makes more of a public showing.Visit: Dominant Legs | Lefse
Purchase: Insound | eMusic