Dressy Bessy has always walked a fine line between their sugar-smacks brand of ‘60s pop and a lo-fi aesthetic that threatens to blunt the impact of their ingratiating hooks. On their fifth album, Holler and Stomp, the band finally lands on the wrong side of that line as a result of a deliberate choice to push their sound in a direction that is ill-fitting with their strengths. Even on their glorious debut, 1999’s Pink Hearts Yellow Moons, and 2005’s Electrified, frontwoman Tammy Ealom’s vocals had a tendency to land just a bit flat of the sunny, major-key melodies that gave those albums such charm. For Holler and Stomp, the band has incorporated some minor-key arrangements and diminishing chord progressions that pull focus from what would otherwise be standout hooks on songs like opener “Automatic” and “Ease Me Down.” That Ealom is still noticeably flat throughout the record, combined with the lack of affect that typically characterizes her deliveries, only plays into the album’s dissonance. While there are still a handful of highlights—“Shoot, I Love You” is as fun as anything the band has recorded, while “In Your Headphones” practically begs to be used in an iPod commercial—the whole of Holler & Stomp has a frankly unappealing sound. Dressy Bessy simply didn’t make smart choices in how to challenge themselves: By downplaying their gift for memorable hooks and melodies, a band known for an unbridled sense of joy comes across as dour and bored.
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