that dog. – Retreat From the Sun

5 out of 5

Label: DGC

Produced by: Brad Wood

Hands down, one of my favorite pop rock albums of all time; Anna Waronker’s best embellished performance, fully enabled by the talented musicians making up that dog., And some of Brad Wood’s most effectively balanced and sunny production.

Admittedly, I still get slightly mixed feelings on Waronker’s lyrics.  A lot of girl-fronted alternative acts from the 90s have this weird blend of frankness and wouldn’t-pass-the-Bechdel test quality to their lyrics, and its difficult trying to contextualize that nowadays.  It’s a trend that hasn’t exactly gone away in the “empowered” posters of today, though in those case (to me), the content is mostly shallow.  It’s also a habit Waronker would carry into her solo albums: For every track that interestingly juggles cute boy giggle with whip-smart snark (generally accompanied by an appreciative guitar crunch), there’s something more straight-ahead and swoony.  Which should by no means be off limits, but Waronker found herself in a position of being both a minor indie rock icon and a major crush for many, and she would seemingly happily play to both crowds.  All that said, Retreat From the Sun errs toward more insightful and sarcastic tracks than lovey songs – single Never Say Never and razor-edged highlight Gagged and Tied are just a snap selection of many hard-hitting tracks, and for those that pull back a bit, the compositions are so sharp and pleasing it hardly matters.

Cutting a wide swath from pop to punk to surf, Retreat From the Sun is an utter delight of instantly catchy riffs, rich production, gorgeous harmonies and strings, crisp drumming, and peak Anna Waronkerness.