Sometimes in the musical world, it seems like innovation is dead and new musical sounds are impossible. That all we'll ever get is endless regurgitation of past musical glories.
Then we hear a band like the Ditty Bops.
The quirky duo's debut album is a playful, whimsical collection of offbeat pop-folk, with an edge of carnival cuteness. This is an album where a bluesy melody can suddenly be broken by a strange merry-go-round sound, and where harmonies are the rule. In other words, all rules go out the window.
At their core, most of these are just acoustic guitar pop. Acoustic with a twist: some are catchy, some are bluesy, folky, country, and even alt-rocky in the banjo-laden rocker "There's A Girl." Surprisingly, all of these different styles fit together almost seamlessly.
But the guitar pop is not the main thing that makes the Ditty Bops charming. Actually, they would be fairly boring if it weren't... well, dressed up a little. What gives their songs an element of charm is the offbeat songwriting and the odd music -- they have everything from keyboard washes to dulcimer, mandolin to trombone and banjo.
And yet, the most charming aspect of the Ditty Bops is the old-fashioned vibe. Maybe it's the vocal harmonies, or the folky melodies. But the album has the sound of a long-lost folk-pop album that got buried, and only recently was dug up and released. Yes, even with songs about dried blood, marital murder, modern soullessness, and a "mechanical lady with her garden hose waters the cement."
Abby DeWald and Amanda Barrett both do vocal duty. At the same time. Yes, they manage to harmonize on every single song, on virtually every note. They sound refreshingly sweet, no matter how strange their songs are. "But me, I'd rather plant a tree/that grows up tall for all to see/until I need a pencil/then I'll chop it to the ground."
The Ditty Bops manage to be charming, cute, edgy and funny -- all on the same album. Definitely a memorable and fun debut.