On the local quintet's new album, Tonight We Love You, the group's '90s fetish ducks and weaves, only occasionally landing a hard right hook: The two-minute "Descriptions" is a punky twist on Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube," and every bit as sonically complex; the brilliant "Sorrow to Shallow" reminds of Rainer Maria or early Hazel.
What emerges more often here is a newly layered approach that de-emphasizes the angular guitar of DOTD's past efforts in favor of a thicker and juicier sound. Even vocally, the band has grown more playful: Keyboardist/vocalist Cassie Neth can be almost Nico-esque in delivering the band's semi-abstract lyrics, while guitarist/vocalist Aaron Miller is a more forceful student of post-punk.
So integral are the vocalists to DOTD's driving sound that I find myself skipping two perfectly lovely instrumental tracks, "Invitation" and "Interlude." Those songs seem determined to prove that DOTD is capable of more than just balls-out, Fugazi-esque post-punk, but it's a point the band made early on shoegazey opening track "Cartoon Eyes." In a city in desperate need of smart rock music with real bite, this band never really needed to prove anything, but the album's strong final suite still makes a nice argument for DOTD's relevance (though the anthemic "Coeur D'Alene," the most lyrically revealing track in the collection, probably should have been the set-ender). Granted, I'm a relic of the '90s, but Deer or the Doe has added some nice little tricks to its repertoire these past few years, arriving at a place that's at once sentimental and vital—and, thankfully, more than a little rock 'n' roll.
SEE IT: Deer or the Doe plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., on Thursday, May 31, with Radiation City and Point Juncture, WA. 9 pm. $6 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.