As a warning to those of us who don’t admire people who think only about themselves, the Submarines’ Jack Dragonetti (a.k.a. Jack Drag) and Blake Hazard (the great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald) spend much of their debut, Declare a New State, singing about their up-and-down (and then up again) relationship. Their impressive debut presents more than an amusing look at their relationship, however; Dragonetti’s and Hazard’s creativity shines through the ten harmonious tracks on Declare a New State.
Here’s the back story: Dragonetti, a producer who’s worked with bands including Apples in Stereo and Beck, produces Hazard’s solo album, Little Airplane, in 2002, and that encounter leads to romance. They move from Boston to California together only to break up after they get there, and then each pens a bunch of post-breakup songs. But they still share a studio, and said post-breakup songs effectively work to bring the two back together and, eventually, to the altar. It may have taken a while for them to get to this point, but their debut as the Submarines seems to disregard all the drama and instead concentrate on the music. And in that regard, the two seem to be kindred spirits.
Except for opener “Peace and Hate” and a few choruses, Dragonetti and Hazard alternate vocal responsibilities by song. The opener reveals much of what makes the album: a dialogue between Jack Drag and Hazard, harmonious instrumentation to the sound of two pleasant vocalists. Dragonetti sings, “Sometimes we glide, sometimes we fall, and there are times we don’t get up at all.” Then comes the anthem chorus of the album: “I should be gone, cast away, and still I love you through all peace and hate.” The one drawback to placing this song at the front of the album is that it suggests the remainder of the album will also be done in this intra-song dialogue.
“Vote” recalls the context of when they broke up on the eve of the 2004 California Primary Election, shortly after their move from Boston to Los Angeles. Recollecting their break-up for one of their best songs exemplifies the irony of this new state. Perhaps Jack Drag’s lament — “my only hope lies in your being confused” — best describes the contradicting thread strung through “Vote,” as well as through the entire album (and thus the need to declare a new state). “Brighter Discontent” is an emotional rally in which Hazard asks, “Is a brighter discontent the best that I can hope to find?” Despite her description of a bottle of red wine, a desk to write a note, hotel stationery from the time they first met, she echoes her message that “all these things should make me happy to be alone again.” Among the second-half highlights are the album’s fiercest track, “Modern Inventions,” and the melodic “This Conversation.”
With the album’s release date coinciding with the beginning of summer, Declare a New State should be an easy addition to the summer soundtrack.
Band (streaming audio): http://www.thesubmarines.com/Label: http://http://www.nettwerk.com/