I was told several months ago that I’d like this little band called The Format. I listened to one song “On Your Porch” from their last album Interventions and Lullabies didn’t love it and never listened to them again….until now. I think I may have made a mistake.
Pop in Dog Problems and you’ll think you’re starting a kid’s bedtime album with the waltz rhythms, slow piano, circus-like beats of “Matches” and “I’m Actual.” This understated start to the album kicks off the mood and seamlessly sets up what’s to come. Get acclimated to the Format’s unique sound and you’re ready to jump into “Time Bomb,” an energetic, terribly catchy song that will be stuck in your head for days to come. “Time Bomb” is piano-rock at its best with a hint of indie-dance fun. If that wasn’t enough to get you hooked on the Format, stay tuned for “She Doesn’t Get It” and “Oceans,” for some get-up-and-dance and don’t forget to clap along tunes. These single-worthy tunes are just what Interventions and Lullabies fans will love but don’t stop listening now, the Format proves to be more than radio-friendly singles and many of the gems of Dog Problems come in the form of intrapersonal sentiments of maturity from the band (made up of Nate Ruess and Sam Means).
You’d never know that this wasn’t the happiest album in the world if you never listened to the lyrics. The lively beats mislead the listeners from the fact that this album is called Dog Problems for good reason (actually because vocalist Nate Ruess would get a dog every time he got back with his girlfriend thinking it would save the relationship). In “Dog Problems,” Ruess sings of desperation and lost love, (“Was it worth it when you slept with him? / Did you get it all out of your system?”) but the lyrics seem hidden behind complex instrumental arrangements and ever-changing tempos. Folk-inspired “Snails” proves to be one of the more interesting of the album as Ruess tells his fear living life too quickly and a need to see the world through the eyes of a snail (“Snails see the benefits, the beauty in every inch”). Finally,Dog Problems closes with “If Work Permits,” a fleshed-out tale of introspection in the sea of life delivering my favorite line of the album (“I scream as loud as anyone but when asked to make a point I tend to whisper.”) Halfway through this telling track, the guitars push their way in and the tempo picks up to rightly finish the album on a hopeful note (“Love is coming home.” “I’m writing the folks back home to tell them I’m doing alright.”)
Dog Problems proves to be a notable follow-up to the Format’s 1st album Interventions and Lullabies combining the catchy beats and handclaps of Interventions with an even more extensive list of horn arrangements and dynamic lyrical depth that will force you to take notice. After being dropped from two labels and spending three years working on this album, the Format bring a refreshing throwback to what pop music should be stating inspiration from Brian Wilson and Bruce Springsteen. And who doesn’t want to go back to a time before Kelly Clarkson and the horror that is boy bands? Don’t make the same mistake I did; give the Format a listen now.
For fans of: Straylight Run (sound familiar? Nate Ruess added background vocals on “It’s for the Best”), the Beach Boys, Nada Surf, and the New Pornographers.
Release date: July 11, 2006
Rating: 8.5 / 10
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