Review: Dr. Dog, 'The Psychedelic Swamp'

by Andy Battaglia

Dr. Dog's new album, The Psychedelic Swamp, comes out Feb. 5.
Dr. Dog's new album, The Psychedelic Swamp, comes out Feb. 5. (Courtesy of the artist)

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


It's no surprise that a band called Dr. Dog might tend toward loopy, loping outsider rock with a slightly goofy streak. If there were any doubt, it's quickly dispelled by The Psychedelic Swamp, a concept album that wanders and sprawls to absorbing effect. The songs on Dr. Dog's ninth record predate the band itself: They're sourced from a tape with formative songs written together by Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman before they'd adopted the Dr. Dog mantle. ("A half-baked idea back in 2001, it has been reborn in 2016, fully baked," the press release promises.)

The story of a psychedelic netherworld unfurls as much as a narrative-minded listener might want, but the songs also thrive, comfortably and casually, on their own. "Golden Hind" opens with a gentle swirl of acoustic and electric guitar and some deep-voiced mewling, with a mix of olden-days beatitude and menace that would play well in a David Lynch film. "Dead Record Player" steps up in a sort of glam-rock strut, with riffs reeling around spacious drums and a store of sassy T. Rex moves. The character in the song seems to be dead, tripping, or at least in a strange enough state that "when I listen to my records, no matter what they are, they sound real good but real weird."

The sound swells and expands from there, with keyboards streaking "Psychedelic Pop" and a snippy, snappy synth beat beneath "Bring My Baby Back." A fondness for swoops and swerves (plus occasional interludes and bursts of bizarre noise) make parts of the album sound carnival-like in the manner of the latter-day psych-rock advocate Of Montreal, while solid song structures otherwise put Dr. Dog in league with The Shins or Spoon. Add a loose sort of jam-band disposition (especially in supple bass lines that wiggle and run throughout), and enough idiosyncrasy abounds to make The Psychedelic Swamp more than worth a ramble.

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  • The Psychedelic Swamp
    The Psychedelic Swamp (Courtesy of the artist)

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