Is it disappointing that Dominant Legs' debut LP Invitation isn't the darkwave indebted, electropunk exploration of sexuality that the band's name and the LP's title suggest? Even Invitation's album art is provocative, featuring member Hannah Hunt from the neck up, waiting rapturously with an open mouth to pull a grape from the cluster dangled above her. The content that's actually on the album, all jangly rock and coy pop, has a life that's pretty far away from those darker themes.
Both Hunt and Dominant Legs founding member Ryan Lynch are Bay Area natives, which possibly explains a very coastal, open feel that pops up frequently on Invitation. It's an attitude that's present on the record's strongest material; the two tracks that open the album as well as lead single "Hoop of Love." Those songs have a rollicking, adventurous quality that's pretty aurally attractive. It would be a neat trick, if they could keep that up for 12 songs.
Instead the album switches to unadorned, synthy pop that carries a few hints of twee in the bright, uncomplicated instrumentation. These songs too, work for the most part; tracks like "Already Know That It's Nice" and "Lady Is Sleek and So Petite" are cool displays of the duo's range, but as an record they make Invitation a little bit jarring in places. Part of the appeal of the album as a format is its ability to sell a band by presenting a consistent sonic narrative. Dominant Legs' hopping around makes it a little bit harder to figure out what their story is.
There's also a bit of inconsistency that actually isn't present but would be welcome. Lynch has a fine voice, but he dominates the vocal track of every song on Invitation. After hearing Hunt's pleasant, airy voice in the background of song after song it creates some anticipation for her moment in the fore, but it never comes.
Invitation's weakest point is "Make Time for the Boy," a strangely doo-wopish, plodding number that feels out of step with the rest of the album, but that's because the rest of the album is mostly composed of confident, fun rock and sleek pop. On Invitation Dominant Legs have all of the parts of a "sound," there's just a little more assembly required.
Dominant Legs are one of the growing number of bands making dreamy, synth-laden bedroom-pop in the traditions of such unpretentious icons as Nile Rogers, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and Tracy Chapman. The band’s cornerstone Ryan William Lynch started the band in 2008, and spent the bulk of his time in the next couple years opening for, and playing guitar with fellow San Franciscans Girls. His first full length Invitation has its title from a Springsteen quote, and is thematically congruent to the Boss’ famous tales of love and escape. It’s out on Lefse Records Sept. 27.