The Pacific Northwest-based trio Dude York hit the punk-pop jackpot with their 2017 album Sincerely. They added bassist/vocalist Claire England to the lineup, added some punch to their sound, and wrote a batch of songs that hit the sweet spot between heartache and joy, soundtracked by giddy voices and riffy guitars. It was a fine formula and it didn't need to change for them to make another strong record. Things did change, though, and on 2019's Falling the group tweak their style in ways big and small, while ultimately proving equally impressive in the end. Maybe even a little more satisfying. The biggest alteration was having England write and sing half the songs. She provided two of the highlights on Sincerely, adding some open-hearted sincerity and big hooks to the mix. She does the same here, and her half of the record is stadium-sized emo pop, full of earnest lyrics about falling in and out of love, sky-scraping guitars, and her brightly hued vocals. Her contributions -- like the hard-charging "I'm the 1 4 U" and "Unexpected," or the insistent "Let Down" -- are brimming with energy and have a joyous sense of freedom that comes through in her vocals and the rippling guitar and power-packed drumming. On the flip side, it sounds like guitarist Peter Richards had a rough stretch in between records. His songs are heartbroken and desperate, with the guitars dialed down and subtle keyboards added. His vocals are one tear-stained step past melancholy, and even the addition of England's harmonies can't break through the gloom. The combination of quietly layered arrangements and super-sad lyrics mean that his half is way less Weezer and much more Cure-inspired. Many of the songs capture the same resigned and beautiful melancholy that permeates the mid-period work of Shout Out Louds. His melodies and vocals take on the weight that England's have cast off; tracks like "Only Wish" and the Ramones-quoting "How It Goes" are dark, and the title of "Doesn't Matter" provides a solid clue as to his state of mind. Dude York prove just as adept at these more subdued and sad songs as they do at the up-tempo rockers, and the blending of the two styles and tones makes for a fascinating record. It's certainly more complicated, both musically and emotionally, and shows the band growing in interesting ways. The cut and paste of wildly different moods and sounds might cause the group to split in two in the future, but on Falling the bond holds tight.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo