Album Review: Dams of the West’s Youngish American

Dams of the West’s first album, Youngish American, is a mixture of garage rock, indie, and alt-punk, with a blend of lyrics that fluctuate between funny and profound. Dams of the West is the first solo project of Chris Tomson, writer, multi-instrumentalist, and most notably drummer of Vampire Weekend. The album was released on February 24th and though very different from Tomson’s work with Vampire Weekend, is still a quality indie-rock record.

Tomson’s talents go beyond drumming for Youngish American. He also wrote and sings the lyrics, and plays guitar and bass for all 10 tracks on the album. At first, the mix in the tracks can be a little hard to appreciate due to distortion of the vocals hiding behind loud drums and punk-inspired guitar riffs. But a closer listen reveals that Youngish American is a well-balanced album with intricate lyrics and a fresh delivery.

The second song on the album is titled “Tell the Truth”. The song starts with a very alt-punk styled intro complete with a heavy bass and drum beat. Synth can be heard in the background, while the bass drives the song and the chorus features a guitar riff that doubles the vocal melody intensifying the lyrical lines to make the chorus even catchier. “Tell the Truth” presents a captivating story that is further exaggerated by the music video. The footage mimics a modern conspiracy story and features Tomson making gestures with his tongue and hands, comparing them to signs of the Illuminati, and even a Reptilian. In an interview with NPR Tomson said, “Tell the Truth,' to me, is a song about objectivity and/or the "blame America first" phenomenon. When I wrote the song, I believed that facts, at some future endpoint, would conquer all”.

“Death Wish”, the third track on the album, is an easy-going indie-rock song. Chock full of well-delivered puns, this track is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. “Death Wish” cleverly represents the quarter-life crisis, with verses like: “Must have some kind of death wish/Didn't really start to floss until I was 31” and “Think I'm ready to be a father now/But I want to get some pizza first.” The song is split into thirds and offers 3 distinct personal experiences all tied together by the repetition of this simple yet reflective line: “I don't want to be perfect, no/ I just want to fix the fixable things”.

“The Inerrancy of You and Me” is the fourth track of the album, and contains some of the most interesting and intelligent lyrics on the album. The term “inerrancy” is usually applied to biblical texts and means without fault or infallible. Tomson adopts the word and blends it into a more romantic context. “The Inerrancy of You and Me” assures the listener that a relationship without fault is unrealistic as Tomson sings, “I don’t believe in the Inerrancy of you and me, but I think we can figure it out”. The song is built on a loud and melodic bass line and a “punkish” drumbeat reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s earliest works. The song far from dissuades from embracing love, but rather encourages it. The music video shot by Tomson, and his wife Emily, features Tomson dressed as Elvis preparing a romantic set-up.

Youngish American by Dams of the West is a perfect example of what a talented musician can do with imagination and some free time. This LP features a list of 10 incredibly well-written songs, both lyrically and in instrumentation. The catchy bass lines and heavy drumbeats are presented in a garage-rock style that only Chris Tomson knows how to deliver. Although the quality of the vocals is not the cleanest, that does not seem to be Tomson’s focus. Even so, Youngish American's intelligent lyrics tackle both social and personal issues in a very unique and satirical way, offering a pleasant blend of rock, punk, and indie from beginning to end.

-Manuel Robles

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