Don’t retire that “Best of 2011” list just yet. With Dog Year, their full-length debut, nutso Brooklyn indie-experimentalists Miracles of Modern Science have just unloaded a “Must Hear” on our unsuspecting asses.
These guys are total dweebs—no shame in that. And though principal writers Evan Younger (double-bass, vocals) and Josh Hirshfeld (mandolin, vocals) met via Facebook and founded the project at an Ivy League home-base (Princeton University), the real dorkiness cuts through in the music—which sounds like it was concocted in a science lab filled with beakers and goggle-wearing brainiacs. The eclecticism is overwhelming, and even though the players stick faithfully to their core instruments, sometimes it’s literally impossible to classify the genre of a given track. The pummeling “Space Chopper” might be the world’s introduction to disco-grass. The intertwining cello and violin (played by Geoff McDonald and Kieran Ledwidge respectively) add a layer of sophistication to the playful eclecticism, helping steer tracks like “Tensity” and “I Found Space” toward Owen Pallett or Ra Ra Riot territory, even as the Tyler Pines’ tight, powerful drumming nearly pushes its way to prog-rock. And that “Friend of the Animals” is able to swing effectively from bluegrass to space-rock to wah-wah funk and back again—and never doing so in jarring fashion—is an accomplishment all on its own.
They sure are fond of punny song titles (see: “Bossa Supernova” and “MOMS AWAY” and “Strangerous”), but the songs themselves tend to avoid easy, obvious quirk. In fact, the band’s collective instrumental communion is often coronary-serious, the arrangements building and circling with youthful vigor. On “Quantum of Solace,” in which Hirshfeld arrives at his inevitable R.E.M. reference, the band builds stark intensity through sheer brightness, a solar eclipse of sound.
“I’ve got friends at the petting zoo,” goes one memorable line. Hell, with a debut this strong, they just might make a few human friends, too.