Despite initial portents heralding the death of the album, 2012 has been a landmark year for the fading format, with a bumper crop of strong, specifically conceived works forestalling a return to a world of free-floating singles. Nevertheless, some bands might benefit from such a transition, particularly those whose success has less to do with presenting cohesive long-format works than unleashing strings of catchy, playlist-ready pop. Among these is Dum Dum Girls, a group whose songs work best in small doses. Enter End of Daze, a five-song EP that summarizes the band's strengths better than any of their work so far, while also highlighting how little this material gains from linear sequencing.
The succinctness here is key, avoiding the anodyne washout that inevitably comes from long-term exposure to this kind of gauzy stuff. Last year's Only in Dreams, despite the plaudits earned and the singular strength of some of its tracks, felt deadening as a whole, the individual songs weakened by the sameness of the shimmery production. The brief presentation here comes off like a breath of fresh air, a diffuse mist rather than a hanging cloud.
Wispy as they are, these songs benefit from the uncrowded presentation, and would profit even more from being enjoyed as singles. They gain as little from being corralled as the music of their direct antecedents: girl groups like the Supremes or surf rockers like Dick Dale or early-period Beach Boys, whose music is still better enjoyed in sunny one-shot bursts than in lumped-together collections. That said, Dum Dum Girls remain on a higher tier than more obvious, similarly inclined groups like Best Coast, and End of Daze shows definite signs of growth, integrating Cocteau Twins-style mystery and Cure-aping guitar atmospherics to the band's otherwise simplistic approach. "Trees and Flowers" scales the music back to an unobtrusive burble, granting heighted force to frontwoman Dee Dee's powerful voice and vulnerable lyrics.
"Season in Hell" takes a similarly stripped-down approach, hinging on a near-static drumbeat delivered with a purposefully ragged slackness, a counterpoint to the shimmery directness of the guitars. These songs represent progress, reinterpreting the band's usual sound into distinctly new permutations. A full album's worth of such material might have lessened the effect, but nestled among a few like-minded songs they sound crisp, neat, and refreshing.