Dresses – ‘Let Down’ (EP)

Cut from the same cloth as She & Him and The Head and the Heart, a quirky Portland duo make a bold statement about love and loss in their sophomore effort.

There is joy in loss. There is optimism in being passed over. The by-product of rejection is enlightenment. Big ticket issues being discussed in harmonised, up-tempo detail in the six-track EP Let Down; a surprise, as-if-from-nowhere venture out of Oregon. Indi-pop duo Dresses kick off their second EP with an improbably jaunty plea for love and self-assurance. The track, ‘Catch’, a beautifully written, produced and composed number, seeking clarity and respect from an unseen, quavering love interest. “Don’t wanna be another one that you throw back; this is a two-way street not a cul-de-sac; and if I threw my heart and made a pass; would your hands reach out when I said ‘catch’?”. ‘Drift Away’ and title track ‘Let Down’ take us further on the journey, reiterating the theme prevalent through the whole enterprise, perhaps we’re better off now that we’ve been left. Both vocalists (Jared Ryan Maldonado, Timothy Heller) find gold in their harmonies, blending the yearning, angst and joy in the damage of loves lost. It’s optimistic all the while addressing that which is all too painful and familiar. In ‘I Don’t Believe’, Maldonado sings, ‘Every night I lie awake and alone, I hate myself, I blame myself, it’s all my fault…’ Sadness, sure. But there’s a beat and tempo propelling it all forward that wouldn’t be out of place in a stadium marching band.

Bonus track ‘Fools’ again keeps the party going, with a whistling refrain reminiscent of Fitz and the Tantrums (who Dresses have in fact opened for; synergy for the win).

Dresses is very much at home among the She & Him brand of eccentric, quirky vocal throwbacks; the finer kind of pastiche; a generic mash-up elegantly befitting an act whose music reflects on the past but with one eye on the possibilities on the horizon.

Eps of this quality and calibre beg for there to be LPs in the future, and we can only hope that the fates direct Dresses that way. We want more of this.

The whole thing is sweet, but with unexpected bite. Like the great cover art would suggest, in a simple yet staggeringly effective visual metaphor. A great find.

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