The past month has seen Top 10 of 2010 lists crop up faster than Gremlins on summer vacation in Wisconsin Dells. The end of the end of the year started in late November, as if everyone was on the edge of their seat for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to hit the shelves to instantly declare it to be the magnum opus of the calendar year. Half of me wishes Radiohead would release an album on December 30th to spite these premature annual check-ups on music and cause a last minute dash to scramble the writing forces to rethink their lists well past Santa’s return to North Pole. Why do I feel this way? Because it ignores December-no seriously, it does. Case in point? Let this review serve as an example that music doesn’t end after everyone has recovered from both the turkey coma and (hopefully) survived the consumer insanity that is Black Friday. This week, the French-Finnish duo, The dø, released an EP that not only should be on tops of 2010s but will light up everyone’s musical radars for 2011 more than Kris Kringle’s annual gift-wrapped Award Tour for the young and old.
The dø are a unique two-piece with Olivia Merilahti (half-French, half-Finnish) and Dan Levy (France). The two met in France while recording music for L’empire des loups (Empire of the Wolves), ended up releasing A Mouthful in 2008 to acclaim. Dust It Off is a three song EP leading into their upcoming follow-up, an amuse-bouche for what’s to come. “Dust It Off” is the lead, with its unsettling Melvillian guitar. Olivia’s voice is reflective of the angelic, bare light that washes over this somber musical set. Yet the tone has a contradictory fatalistic gloom that lends itself a beauty akin to Jef Costello’s unrequited end. The beauty fails to be retained by Olivia’s voice, but in the minor electronic interjections in the recording that truly reinforce. One minute in, the song skips so subtly you notice, then forget. Later, it becomes insistent, urgent in how the scuffs bring in brass as if you were manually tuning in an old television to get a clear picture-only for it to struggle and cut out.
Seamlessly, and I’m not sure how other than perhaps through build-up introducing Dan’s guitar, “Too Insistent” is everything a continuation of A Mouthful‘s best, indie pop aspects. As Olivia sings, softly at first, “Why don’t you let me go?” the song sheds the memories of “Dust It Off” with wisps of velvety violin and gentle brass bursts. Albeit orchestral, the added instrumentation accentuates instead of overwhelms as she herself exhorts exasperatedly her protest. It truly recalls “At Last” and “On My Shoulders” with, which is what’s so stellar this round of The dø, much clearer lyrics. Olivia’s singing has dramatically improved while Dan’s experimental element grows more precisely eclectic.
“Slippery Slope” channels Northern Europe far more than Western, particularly drawing an obvious comparison to Lykke Li in terms of her movements in the video and the stunted percussive barrages. It is so bombastic you fail to notice the minor touches buried underneath, hidden by superb mixing. Olivia, who hinted at apprehensive foreshadowing, which was then forgotten through the indie pop middle track, pulls the veil back on a distorted, taunting jaunt of celebration as if the two knowingly, successfully drew you into that foggy forest of their own creation…and you can’t find your way out. Though the question remains if you truly want to, or would rather continue to delve deeper into The dø’s delicately eclectic world.