Albums can become part of our lives in a variety of ways. In my youth, hearing bands on 'The Evening Session' on Radio 1 would be the catalyst for me to scour the racks in a store, seeking to find an album, before probably buying the complete discography of whichever act was 'the best band in the world' that week. These days, as happened in the case of this beautiful piece of work by New Dog, an album can become a part of your life simply by popping in to your inbox.
When the album arrived, I had no idea who New Dog (Anar Badalov) was, but one listen to Teeth Marks, his second album under that moniker, and I was left with similar feelings that those albums which became touchstones of my musical existence gave me back in the Ninetiess. Do you remember that excitement? That feeling that nothing else in the world matters quite as much as the album you were holding in your hand and the joy listening to it would give you? This is a record that can evoke those emotions.
Teeth Marks is a beautiful album of downtempo electronica-tinged folk. Throughout, Anar's soft voice whispers plaintively as he lays bare what seems to be his entire self. “I'll tell you anything you wanna know, if you just let me walk you home” the chorus to opening track '3AM' promises. Its bright and breezy sound gives the impression that this is going to be an easy listen. Nothing could be further from the truth. 'Here All Days' finds Badalov sadly intoning “all the people that I love I can count om one hand” and we find that we are in the midst of what seems to be a suite of songs based around coming to terms with everyday life. The kind of life that we are not promised when we are young, but which, for most, is inevitable. 'Here All Days', musically, is one of the albums' most uptempo moments. Some lovely guitar tones and rolling, processed drums leave plenty of space Badalov's vocal to take centre-stage. 'Lover's Palm' mixes swathes of distorted guitar with nicely-judged piano figures to provide the foundation for Badalov to croon “tonight, while you sleep, I'm gonna meet you in your dreams_”. The track is as foreboding as it sounds. Elsewhere 'Nothing Has Changed' is another opportunity for a beautiful lament at a life seemingly without hope. “You're still drinking in the afternoon”, he accuses before the song's coda kicks in in a moment of undiluted emotion.
'The Party' and 'Too Far' follow, companion pieces about a party which will be thrown "but he won't be there, and you'll love him more for it". The latter's beautiful, sonorous piano accompaniment is a real highlight of the whole album. Closer 'Would You Let Me In', brings things to a head with a final desperate request for communication, for intimacy. That the album finishes with the request unanswered and the issues New Dog has presented unresolved is the crux of this whole project. Life is messy. It is confusing. It hurts. New Dog knows all this. Listening to this album lays plain that he has lived it, perhaps still is. Teeth Marks is a window into his journey, his life, his very soul. This is a decidedly lo-fi album. You won't find all of the bells and whistles so prominent on so much contemporary folk music here. What you will find is one of 2016's most honest records. It's an album to delve into and in which to find beauty.
Now, if only there were still radio stations playing this sort of thing.
8Haydon Spenceley's Score