Album Review: Gulfer – ‘Dog Bless’

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As we slowly crawl toward the end of second decade of the 21st century, we are reminded every so often that emo is still very much alive (how long can you revive until you’re just alive?).

Influenced by the early 2000’s bands like Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, artists in the DIY scene have heavily relied on the genre’s math rock, indie, and punk roots to draw inspiration for new music. However, with the scene’s saturation of artists fueled by Midwestern emo stylization, it is easy for releases to blend in. However, I haven’t heard a record stand out as brightly and notably as Gulfer’s Dog Bless in a long time.

Hailing from Montreal, Gulfer‘s sophomore album is a testament to the complexity of life, covering everything from growing old, to the bouts of uncertainty that consume that we face throughout our turbulent lives. The album’s ooze of emotion-packed indie rock is so enticing and beautifully executed, with impactful lyrics being matched by energetic guitar riffs,  both of which purvey a feel of melancholy to shadow the album’s deeper significance. Structured into three segments, each composed of three tracks and divided by light musical interludes, the design of the record contributes to the album’s originality, as the presentation feels like you’re digging into chapters of the band’s songwriting process rather than being fed a stream-of-consciousness.

The first trio of tracks feels like the ultimate introduction to Gulfer’s style of music, as well as to the album as a whole. Kicking it off with the track “Secret Stuff”, the albums begins with Vincent Ford’s screaming vocals penetrating somber guitar riffs, which in turn are only to be met by a fury of impassioned drums. The song attacks in waves, fueling bursts of passion and discourse with pieces of therapeutic, emotional bliss. “I dislike the fact that I’m getting older everyday”, shouts Ford as he depicts a night of seclusion and basement song writing, veiled with intrinsic feelings of self-hatred and nihilism. The track as a whole depicts themes of conformity and social rigidity, which are painted in a more approachable fashion by the band’s demeanor.

“Secret Stuff” rolls right into “Doglife”, a track that loses none of the energy displayed in the former introduction, as it opens with familiar guitar riffs from the previous track before evolving into a beast of its own right. “Doglife” is one of the more cathartic tracks from Dog Bless, as it flows with a mellower tone and cyclical style that is focused on the power of Ford’s voice, as it dictates the flow of the song from start to finish. Displaying the missed opportunities and connections we can all relate to in our own experiences, Ford depicts taking a “dog’s life” amount of time to kindle a dear personal relationship, and continues in expressive detail about the impact that it has had on him.

Following the first musical interlude, we find the thrashing gang vocals and upbeat attitude of  “Baseball”, a song that Gold Flake Paint described perfectly as “choppy and contagious”. Producing images of dust-covered wedding gowns and tattered reels of 35mm film, “Baseball” feels like a flashback to a simpler time, peppered with memories of nostalgic refuges and bathed in lasting warmth. The whole track composes itself to produce a beautifully strewn together juxtaposition of fluttery math rock riffs and abrupt crashes of intricate sound, which together bridge the whole piece into a solid effort of force and passion.

Complimenting the former effort, “Be Father” follows with a similar sea of bellicose emotional ties. Opening with the same flickering guitar riffs that have been synonymous throughout the album, the track continues as an extremely upbeat tune. “Be Father” feels as though it could almost command movement from the listener, exuding an aura of excitement and vigor that touches can penetrate straight to the soul. The guitar itself drives the song, commanding utmost attention with raucous displays of authority over tempo and the track’s general mood. In the later half of the song, Ford’s vocals take hold of the listener, echoing repeating lines of prose as the song reaches and ultimate climax, only to again collide with quick guitar and heavy drums until the music cuts out and we are left feeling innate ecstasy course through every nerve of our being.

Although some people consider emo music to be “done”, there is no doubt that Gulfer has come together to create a meaningful and memorable work. Implementing already-established styles of math rock guitar and hybridizing it with more distinctive indie undertones they have produced a sound that, though not comparable, still feels quite familiar. Combining said riffs with Vincent Ford’s emotional songwriting and impassioned vocals has drawn a figurative line in the sand, separating the Montreal outfit from a lot of modern music, and allowing their mastery of art to stand alone and bright in the landscape of a music-driven society.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal


Shannon Mahoney // @Icancountto10

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