Slingshot Dakota – ‘Break’ Review

Posted: by Tommy

A break can be a separation of two entities, an interruption of ongoing activity, a pause of status quo. A break can also be a liberating breath of fresh air, a coveted renewal of energy, or an exciting new opportunity beyond one’s wildest dreams. These vastly different ideas, married together all at once in five clever letters, form the core of Slingshot Dakota’s newest album Break. The title is fitting, as this is the band’s first album as a married couple, and an album poised to fracture preconceptions of what music can be. From its first moments, Break is an upbeat collection of introspective realizations captured in lilting melodies. Keyboardist Carly Comando and drummer Tom Patterson explore the full spectrum of hope and fear that inevitably come with pledging “I do” while departing from mainstream ideas of what makes a band, a sound, a conversation, and even a vibe worthwhile. It’s also Slingshot Dakota’s best work yet, which is hardly surprising to anyone who’s caught their live show in the last year or two (for the uninitiated – ‘keyboard shredfest’ is now officially a genre. Get current). 

Where I’m no fan of the firm-rating album review, I think reviews provide immense value for potential listeners. The conversations we have about art we feel compelled to talk about, in any form, have great worth – be it over the rush of your favorite band releasing a killer new single, the melancholy of a lyric that resonates with your current experience, late-night clarity from the right song at the right time. Break feels, almost entirely, like a record written with these very conversations in mind. Whereas 2012’s Dark Hearts conjured a barricade of dreamy optimism towards futures yet unwritten, Break is the calvary that eagerly tackles the present without ignoring or caving to the fear of failure. No matter how many times I rewrite that sentence, there’s no way to make such an analysis sound any less cheesy or pretentious. Give these records a few spins, and I trust you’ll find my meaning.

“You” functions as a clever opener that puts Slingshot’s range on full display, with Patterson’s steady rhythm rooting Comando’s illustrious powerpop melodies in the pocket. On “Monocracy” (a shoutout to one killer hiking trail in Pennsylvania) Comando croons “don’t you dare break this heart of mine” with equal parts warning and affirmation –  a crucial snapshot of the band’s lifelong promise to one another, and a bite-size synopsis of the album’s voice as a whole.

“Lewlyweds” is a more upbeat take on a punk rock fairytale not without it’s own struggle, but one the band is clearly proud to tackle together. It’s difficult to interpret “this is not the way we imagined/the way we thought it’d go” as anything other than footnotes on wedding vows, while the line “let’s make a promise that we’ll quit our jobs/find a way to do all the things that we love” from standout track Doreen hits like a rallying call against complacency amidst adversity. Even as signed artists, these affirmations showcase the power in facing uncertainties together as a team.

Even the album’s slower moments provide little-to-no reprieve from contemplation. On “Stay,” a slow jam with a swelling urgency, Comando sings “I know I said I would stay, but I meant everything” – one of many lines on this album open to the listener’s interpretation. “Too Much” and the album’s closer/namesake also employ this style of choose-your-own-adventure lyricism, one of my favorite aspects of this band. Who cares if I know precisely who the song was written about? The subtle ambiguity of context provides opportunity for songs to grow with listeners, and is easily one of Slingshot’s biggest strengths.

I couldn’t be more excited to see how “Paycheck,” a chiptunes-anchored ballad with a pulse-pounding backbeat, translates to Slingshot Dakota’s live show. With vocal lines built around a killer melody, the song suffers from a muddy mix on the album. It’s still been stuck in my head for weeks, and, is tied with “Storytellers” for my favorite song on the record.  On the latter, not only is the mix crisp, but everything I want in an SD song finds a perfect balance – optimism, tight grooves & a narrative I can’t wait to revisit. 

Produced by Todd Schied, the collection of songs lacks a thorough cohesion, but I’m not sure that it ever needed one. Slingshot’s songwriting style makes for big choruses and powerful moments, regardless of a bow to tie it all together. Plus, the future is a messy, uncertain place to think about, let alone peg your art on almost exclusively. Comando and Patterson do so beautifully. With their infectious positivity and face-melting musicianship, Slingshot Dakota is truly making the world a worthwhile place to exist, and the future an exciting place to make a break for.

Score: 8/10