Tucson-based trio Best Dog Award's greatest asset is its ability to inspire confusion.
Singer/guitarist Joel Crocco, drummer Andrew Ling, and organist Nick Mazza lay out maps that may lead to nowhere and littering their music with clues that make the puzzle more difficult to solve.
"We play 'exploitation rock,'" Crocco says. "It's a loose genre that I like to call it. It's more a term for what I like to call my own -- like, it manifests in super noisy, chaotic ... the idea of driving a guitar solo or something into the ground until it doesn't mean anything anymore. Stuff like that. It's not a new concept by any means. It's not a real concrete concept."
Taking cues from late-period Pavement, Modest Mouse, and Stereolab without particularly sounding like any of those acts, the band's new EP Faith-Based Space Place (Rubber Brother) is an excellent and rewarding follow up to 2012's TViolence, and its content, evocative of displacement and a wondrous sense of alienation, appears to confound even Crocco.
"We try to just have fun," he explains. "I mean, we have this space motif that's going through our new EP. That kind of stuff just came together but we weren't setting out to achieve some kind of celestial or otherworldly thing. But I think we sound kind of spacey and dreamy. We try to keep things dynamic and pretty noisy at times. We chose to keep it to five songs because we wanted to have a really solid recording."
Faith-Based Space Place was recorded over a period of several months in two studios (St. Cecilia and Wavelab, both located in Tucson) with sporadic sessions beginning late last year.
Crocco's lyrics are quite ambiguous, defined by a yearning to connect with a presence beyond his understanding. He says his background was "coming from a very Christian home and some of the perspective in the songwriting is very cynical towards that. I count myself as a believer at this point but I am open to other possibilities. The songs wrestle with that -- going back and forth from that perspective. The narrator isn't always me. It kind of floats in and out and the music parallels that, going in and out between really chill and really noisy and chaotic."
The video for Space Place's track "Successful" crams disparate and occasionally contradictory imagery atop a song which superficially has nothing to do with success. Scenes that alternate between an intentionally melodramatic experience at a pinball arcade and a non-linear extraterrestrial encounter expand on the song's whimsical, low-key yearning. "Successful" is so fleeting and lovely it almost floats away before it's apparent what has taken place.
Crocco's take? "We just play music that's fun for us." But Best Dog Award is a lot more than simple fun and even if the riddles are left unsolved, it would appear that the journey was worth it.
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