When Snævar Njáll Albertsson launched his Dad Rocks! project in 2010, it didn’t take long until he was established as one of the indie-scene’s favourites. Many were already fans due to his incredible exploits with Mimas and the long-sold-out ‘Digital Age’ EP, with its subtle observations on human behaviour and modern technology, only hinted at the joys that were to come with the following year’s full-length ‘Mount Modern’. Blending highly personal perceptions with wit, panache and truly beautiful instrumentation, it ranks as one of the year’s best albums. Now, after an all-too-long wait, Dad Rocks! release sophomore effort ‘Year of the Flesh’ via Bandcamp.
You should have already heard the lead single from the album ‘Peers’ (and if not, why not?), which finds Snævar singing about the benefits of file sharing and thanking anyone who has ever spread the word about his band(s). A great way of tackling the challenges anyone in the music industry is now facing, the song expertly references ‘the web 2.0 platform’ and ’embedding a SoundCloud’, while also keeping everything grounded with a refreshing sense of self-perspective: ‘The songs we play, sound the same anyway’. Sublimely closing with the call-to-arms of ‘Share this song with everyone’, it’s perhaps a surprise it features so early as the second track in on the album, but when it follows the entirely instrumental and Disney-esque ‘BMI’ so succinctly, you can easily understand why. A faltering blast of twinkly Fanfarlo-style soundscapes opens ‘Daughter Track’, a song which finds Snævar in impassioned mood: ‘There’s no time for nursing, which leads to cursing’, ‘Taking time off her work usually results in something absurd’ and ‘Looking at her Smartphone until they are dead, and then she returns to the job that drives her mad’ (his distinctive vocals make the last two words almost rhyme) being just three of the striking lines. Halfway through the song, there’s a brilliantly played about-turn which leads perfectly to a passionate Bright Eyes’ ‘Road to Joy’-style ending.
With the album’s title, it’s no surprise to learn that humanity, mortality and relationships are all themes returned to time and time again. ‘Cyber Bullies’ tells a sad story about the dangers of the internet and the effect this has on young people. A piano-led track with a hugely emotional core, it’s told from a parent’s side with lyrics like ‘Hoping the cyber bullies give my kid a rest’ and ‘being a kid in school is taking life chances’ sure to bring a tear, although there’s also a lot of pride in the delivery of ‘A beautiful nerd, a beautiful girl, then she rose up and told him to stop to hit on girls’. Just as you’re getting over this, there’s no time for let up as ‘Managed’ tells the tale of a ‘Post-traumatic job switcher’ who throws himself into work to get over a disaster. Looking at the effect the chasing of careers has on people, this is a genteel piano-led song with gorgeous choral backing vocals. The heartbreaking lyrics cover the loss of loved ones and hint at the feelings of a failed musician or artist: ‘He manages computer files, he’s in love with his desk, where they manage his heart’ and ‘At work, they asked him to put on a smile, he does as he’s asked, cos times are hard, because he needs that credit on his Visa card’ bringing the central character to life in a harrowing yet humorous manner.
‘Waves’ opening question of: ‘These dolls are wearing mini skirts, fishnet stockings and see-through shirts, was the toy maker a pervert?’ might be among the year’s best lyrics and the song offers a genteel protest against the media’s obsession with body image, and the effect this has on children growing up. Elegantly downplayed, the subtle nuances of the instrumentation give extra impact to the important questions Snævar poses: ‘A plastic toy tells her how a young boy likes girls to show a little bit of their naked skin… Is it for the common good that magazines tell boys that they should spend another hour in the gym?’. Dead-end jobs make an appearance once more on ‘White Collar’: ‘He’s a stay-at-work dad, he makes the boss glad, but chokes on chicken bones, when he eats at home’. Within Team Me-esque atmospherics, the song again looks at how much you lose out if you go chasing your way to the top, instead of concentrating on living life. The album comes full circle with the closing ‘Body Mass Index’, the Sigur Ros-style conclusion to the opening track, which leaves an impression with its rousing anthemic and poignant chant of :’This ambulance can’t go any faster, your BMI is close to disaster, your weight is low but your eyes still glow as you go through hell and the hospital smell’.
Although still very much Snævar’s project, more of his friends have been involved in the creation of this album than on the debut. and this adds extra ferocity as Dad Rocks! discuss the everyday in an extraordinary way. Buy this album, share this album, love this album.