Times New Viking have managed to pull off something quite challenging over the course of their career, which has now extended through five-full length albums since 2005. As time has passed, the Columbus-based trio has built-- ever-so-slightly--on their template of fuzzed-out indie-pop, handling each change they've approached as carefully as when handling a crucial Jenga piece. Their hooks have grown sharper, their production higher-fi on each go around, but most importantly, by simply being so ridiculously consistent, they've established themselves as a band very worth investing one's time and interest in. They aren't the kind of band to embark on needless genre excursions, but the type that knows exactly what they’re good at. On Dancer Equired, as always, they get in, drop a plethora of catchy tracks, and get out in a half hour.
As hinted at above, Dancer Equired is the cleanest sounding collection of songs Times New Viking has recorded to date, and would sound like straight-up radio pop compared to their output on Slitbreeze. The first lines of album opener “It’s A Culture” speak of making it through the winter and noticing different types of beauty, which ends up acting like a sort of mission statement for everything that follows. There’s still a light coat of grit on Jared Phillips’ guitar and the dual vocals of drummer Adam Elliott and keyboardist Beth Murphy, but all of the songs here possess a sort of sun-goldened, relaxed take on things. They’ve ripped themselves out of the dingy basement, and have set up shop on the rooftop on a blue-skied day, and, despite sounding like they aren’t trying all that hard, Times New Viking constantly stumble upon gem after hummable gem.
These come in the form of “Ever Falling In Love,” with its cresting waves of volume and insistent vocal melody, or in the affable twang of “No Room To Live.” There are rallying cries guaranteed to make skinny wrists shoot skyward (“Try Harder”), and songs that would make the most obvious choices for singles (“Ways To Go,” “Fuck Her Tears”), that make Times New Viking’s appearances on tours alongside bands like Superchunk and Pavement make that much more sense. The latter song might as well be the official soundtrack to young love, with Elliott’s machine-gun bass drum representing an overstimulated heart, and Murphy’s keyboards playing the part of every half-formed and wishful thought that spins throughout the heads of many. In short, it’s an absolute delight.
However, it’s the band’s aforementioned consistency that is ultimately also their slight undoing. While Times New Viking will always be able to have the last laugh, knowing that they’ve contributed quality music to the world, their steadfastness does little to make them stand out in the increasingly crowded world of indie rock. As the attention spans of internet tastemakers decreases over time, the band runs the risk of getting lost in the constant shuffle by simply sticking to one thing for so long. But, more important than any commentary about the listening habits of internet browsers I could possibly make is the fact that Dancer Equired stands as the perfect gateway for new Times New Viking listeners, and definitely deserves to be enjoyed and not brushed aside.
Unlike their peers in the lo-fi movement such as Wavves and No Age, Times New Viking have resisted the urge to clean up their sound. The Columbus, Ohio trio may record in professional studios, but their albums still sound like they were cut directly to someone’s answering machine. Instead Times New Viking have improved their songwriting over the course of their brief, busy career---evolving from basic shit-kicking gutter punk to include strains of pop. “No Room to Live” and “Fuck Her Tears,” the excellent early songs released from Times New Vikings’ fifth album, Dancer Equired, show that even as the band continues to layer on the fuzz, their melodic instincts grow sharper.