The name “Dolphin City” sounds like a Lisa Frank-folder-sporting 8-year-old girl’s dream, but thankfully, the Newport Beach band is considerably more mature than that. In fact, with a record titled Discretion, minimalist album art that recalls such highbrow releases as The Decline of British Sea Power, and songs named “I Am Love You” and “Presque Vu,” it’s almost as if they’re pleading, “Take us seriously!”
And why not? The music merits as much. Dolphin City cite predictably lofty sources of inspiration (Brian Eno, Talking Heads), but on opener “Old Romance,” they sound more like recent anthemic British band Starsailor; the passionate croons of “I Am Love You” recall fellow Orange County band Cold War Kids. Bouncier tunes “Wine and Grapes” and “It Will (Don’t Worry)” sound a bit out-of-place, given the sterner tone of much of the record (they also have thinner vocals) but hold up well enough on their own. Piano is used skillfully throughout—avoiding the clichés of current piano rock (see OC expat Andrew McMahon’s Jack’s Mannequin), perhaps taking subtle cues from another influence, Tom Waits. The instrument complements rather than overwhelms on tracks such as “Do What is Right,” a passionate paean on, y’know, doing what’s right.
If the band indeed take themselves as seriously as they appear to, then you might suspect the lyrics to be dreary junior-high-school-poetry dreck. Luckily, that’s not the case; songwriters (and primary vocalists) Drew Morgan and Eric Scullin keep things simple. “Birds of Prey” is a clear metaphor for a sexual encounter—“she grabbed me by the hips, her borne teeth gleaming”—but it works.
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Given the area’s preponderance of feather-light surf rock and that so much of current pop seems to almost pride itself on being stupid, the more thoughtful approach of Dolphin City doesn’t feel pretentious. Rather, it’s refreshing.
Dolphin City Discretion release show at eVocal, 841 W. 18th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-4548; www.myspace.com/evocal. Sat., 8 p.m. $7-$12 for admission (includes a copy of Discretion). Visit Dolphin City online at www.myspace.com/dolphincity.
Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and decent high-resolution photos (plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to firstname.lastname@example.org.