Trimming their lineup down from nine members to the essential songwriting holy-trinity of Ella Thompson (GL), Jarrad Brown (Eagle & The Worm) and Liam McGorry (Ex-Olympian, Saskwatch), Dorsal Fins entered McGorry’s Hope Street studio with zero expectations and no specific plans to make an album.
Then Star Of The Show – described by McGorry as “the most eclectic thing we’ve ever done” – emerged, with lead vocal duties switched-up throughout giving their third record an almost mixtape feel.
Ironically titled, since creating this record was a truly collaborative affair, Star Of The Show was produced by John Castle (Vance Joy, Megan Washington). The opening title track immediately hypnotises and we feel like we’re floating blissfully in the infinity pool of a house we’ve just broken into, until the groovy beat drops and hints of brass float by on the breeze to shake listeners out of reveries.
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“Alexa, tell me the news today/ Give me a sign that I’m still okay” – Sugar addresses our reliance on devices and the instant gratification of clocking up social media likes (or making a frenzied online purchase). This song floats effortlessly along, a “dopamine chain reaction” that is sporadically validated by a chorus of children “YAY”ing.
Boasting a clarity akin to the great Linda Ronstadt, Thompson’s vocals are pop perfection, glistening like sun glitter throughout the album’s ebullient second single, Sister: “I lost my way trying to be a woman.” Melancholy, Peter Hook-channeling bass enters around this song’s halfway mark before intensifying bongos massage our hopes up and then male BVs rush in, like supportive allies of an exhausted sisterhood.
S.O.S (Stick Of Sage) – props for the creative initialism! – features a spooky harpsichord part that could form the basis of an updated The Addams Family themesong. More Than A Memory is laidback, Barry White-level wooing music and when the trumpet blows in you really should take a chance and lean in for that pash.
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Latest single Criminal’s “Uh-uh-uh-uh” vocal percussion calls to mind MIA and then kettle drums enter right when we thought the arrangement couldn’t possibly be improved – we actually ache for Hot Chip to remix this one. Penultimate track Star Of The Show (Reprise) is a wonky palate cleanser before Midnite Blue descends, closing proceedings with breathy harmonies, funky drumming and timely trumpet flourishes.
Dorsal Fins have always been an innovative, exciting outfit, but free from the shackles of expectation and attachment to outcomes they’ve rewritten their statement of intent. Don’t be mistaken, however, Star Of The Show ain’t no hastily released collection of tinkerings; it’s the sound of three supportive mates, who also all happen to be incredible musicians, generously sharing the spotlight.
Star Of The Show is released uner the label Dot Dash/ Remote Control on May 13. Find out more about the band by heading here.