Critical Voices: Dr. Dog, The Psychedelic Swamp

February 23, 2016

Dr Dog

There are a plethora of factors that can go into naming an album. Maybe the name comes from a hit single, or some particularly clever lyrics on a song, or even just a phrase that the band likes. In the case of The Psychedelic Swamp, the latest album from Dr. Dog, the name happens to be exactly what the album sounds like.

Dr Dog

The Pennsylvania-based band, fronted by co-lead vocalists (and respective bassist and guitarist) Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, has always used elements of psychedelic music, but they reach a new level in this album. While technically the band’s 8th studio release, The Psychedelic Swamp is really a reworked version of Dr. Dog’s self-released first album, originally recorded back in 2001. Undoubtedly, this re-mastering of sorts has paid dividends, as all the intricate details scattered through each song make this album truly fantastic.

That the album is an intensely psychedelic one is apparent almost immediately. The opening track, “Golden Hind,” contains echoing guitar and whooshing sound effects that leave the listener lost in space. The band’s trademark use of vocal harmonies, in addition to sounding beautiful, adds to this sense of being lost. What brings the album to a new level of ethereality is its swamp aspect. Besides the swamp-themed song titles, (“Swampedelic Pop,” “Swamp Descent”) the sound effects on the album make the listener feel like they are floating through a swamp (think nondescript animal sounds and bubbly and airy effects). Furthermore, many songs, such as “Holes in My Back,” are played at an incredibly slow tempo, coinciding well with the sticky, heavy feeling of a swamp.

Despite the strangeness that The Psychedelic Swamp presents with its combined psychedelic and swampy feelings, it is still a pleasant album to listen to. There is no better example than on “Swamp Is On,” seemingly stitched together from a dozen separate pieces and yet so soothing it is almost sleep-inducing. Such a combination of weird and calm doesn’t seem possible, but Dr. Dog masters it to such an extent that each and every song on the album hits a sweet spot of relaxing and engaging music. A swamp may not normally be the most inviting destination, but listening to The Psychedelic Swamp is definitely a journey worth taking.

Voice’s Choices: “In Love” and “Swamp Is On”

Jon Block
Jon was podcast editor, Halftime leisure editor, and Halftime sports editor for the Voice. You can follow him on Twitter @jon_block_ but not on Instagram because he doesn't have one.

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