I’ve got to say that one of my favorite things about the current music industry is this strong resurgence of jam band music and culture that’s been going on for the past several years. As someone who wishes they had been alive to witness the explosion of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and the jam band scene in the ’60s and ’70s, I am extremely happy about the genre’s relatively unimpeded longevity. After the Grateful Dead’s disbandment in 1995 as a result of guitarist and frontman Jerry Garcia’s death, the band Phish stepped in to fill the gap. Although they never achieved quite the amount of success and popularity that the Dead had, they certainly helped to keep the scene alive for the next decade. They were also an integral part of the rise of large-scale music festivals in the modern era. If you think about all of the festivals that host yearly events now – Bonnaroo, Coachella, Camp Bisco, Rootwire, Lightning in a Bottle, All Good, Wakarusa – the list goes on and on.
Dopapod is a group that is quickly rising to the forefront of the jam band scene. Born in 2007, they recently released their third studio album, Redivider, on 12/21/12. The entire record was recorded in a barn at Tyrone Farm, a solar powered farm in Pomfret, Connecticut. Despite the fact that it was released less than a year after their previous album, Drawn Onward (side note: if you haven’t picked up on this yet, the band really likes palindromes), there is nothing about Redivider that gives away any sense of rushed preparation. As a matter of fact, the entire thing is pure, musical gold.
“We don’t say swag no more, we say swank.” Defining words, to be sure. These are lyrics from the confident, yet deeply emotional music created by Andwele Gardner, more commonly known by his stage name Dwele. Contemporary R&B has always been known for its tight production and lush vocals, however despite having a very firm grasp of this concept, I was still unequivocally blown away when I listened to Greater Than One for the first time. If you are not comfortable being seduced by a black man with an incredibly hypnotic voice, then you may be in the wrong place. This album is packed full of beautiful vocals, thick chords, and sentimental lyrics. Dwele features a selection of Detroit’s finest R&B artists and producers, including J. Tait, L’Renee, and Black Milk on “Must Be” and Monica Blaire on “Swank” and “PATrick RONald,” and the result is a brilliant portrayal of the city’s rich musical subculture.
Everything that you would expect to hear in an R&B album is present in Greater Than One. The keyboard sounds are to die for; nothing quite replaces that classic Fender Rhodes timbre. There’s something about it that automatically makes every problem in the world seem insignificant. On top of that, any musician who is looking to improve their grasp of musical harmony should make a point to study R&B. The style definitely pulls heavily from the guidebook of jazz harmony, but implements it in a much hipper context. What exactly makes it hip? There are essentially two factors (in my opinion) that contribute to such a transformation: the lyrics and the beats.