‘O Shudder’ is the sound of a band ensnared in a late-twenties crisis, fretting about a future of family-planning, job-hunting and “settling down”. Thematically oppressive, you might think, but all this semi-autobiographical talk of adulthood makes for Dutch Uncles’ most direct and user-friendly album yet. 2015 could be the year the band break out.
They have a knack for powerful choruses. Quite often, the lyrics change on each iteration, morphing, evolving as the songs progress. There’s a total lack of regularity. ‘Babymaking’ (whimsical in sound, serious in message) shapeshifts to a backing of luscious string arrangements and piano tinkles; ‘Upsilon’, largely incomprehensible, speaks of the perils of social media with Duncan Wallis’ sensuous, constantly changing vocal once again providing the defining thread; ‘Decided Knowledge’, meanwhile, intertwines chanting backing vocals with Wallis’s lead, narrating the mental knock-on effects of a botched job interview. Throughout, the rhythms are complex, the falsetto unpredictable, the melodies unconventional. The future, they reckon, looks similarly warped.
There are more amorphous interludes, such as the chiming ‘Drips’, the beat-less ‘Tidal Weight’ and the intricate ‘I Should Have Read’, which hearkens towards Talk Talk’s ‘the Colours of Spring’, but it’s the gloopy synth-pop of songs like ‘Be Right Back’ and ‘In N Out’ that truly charms. The former elaborates that most telling of ephemeral, internet-age acronyms with clever lyrics and noodling riffs; the latter describes attempts to surpass the friend zone with massive crossover potential. Dutch Uncles have exhibited a sluggish and rigid rise to fame, similar in that respect to Future Islands. But ‘O Shudder’ could well be the album that breaks them. Prone to captivating body-jerking himself, Dutch Uncles frontman Wallis may become this year’s Samuel T Herring and acquire his own hip-twisting dance meme. Well, we can hope. Someone get Letterman on the line.