Album Premiere/Review: Dead Friends’ ‘Shirley’

Dead Friends


(Wallflower Records)

Today, we’re excited to premiere the new LP from Edmonton rock band Dead Friends, Shirley.

The sound of Dead Friends is not one so far removed from the likes of many popular modern garage rock acts such as Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and The Growlers, but it’s also not one that you’d find quite as often from their home country of Canada. The distance removed from larger scene centerpoints such as California lends the band a broader perspective than many of their contemporaries on their newest album Shirley, one that blends the usual suspects of the day with surprising touches that call back to darker, dangerous acts.


dead friends
Dead Friends (left to right: Jesse Ladd, Brian Musilek, Callum Harvey, Carter Mackie and Ellen Reade)

When it comes to more prolific genres of music, such as psych-garage-with-a-country-tinge, the devil is all in the details. One of the most striking on Shirley are the vocals, which may be one of the best identifiers for where Dead Friends land on the spectrum of this scale of bands: nearly all of it. When talking about lead single “Molly” in February, we mentioned Ben Wallers as a reference point while discussing the deep drunken drawl on display, but following the isolated bass soon joined by blaring organ and cacophonous percussion on opener “Honey Darts”, the energy and hookiness are more reminscient of early Cage the Elephant if layered in an extra cloak of shadow and an addtional layer of grit.

A fluctuation and melding between and of more widely popular and radio-ready rock music and black, exhausted cynicism is the story of Shirley. The following track, “Ennio’s Desert Dessert”, is similarly poised to easily catch ears, but proves more adventerous over the course of its runtime, starting with a doo-wop style melody and leading out with surf guitars. “Uncle Is an Eremite” is the song that sounds most like Shirley‘s cover art: a hazy Spagetthi western with electric-acoustic interplay, while single “Joy” is likely the heaviest track on the album, a chaotic swirling mass on the cusp of rampage that in its most manic moments reminds of The Gun Club. The second half of the album settles into more of a tradional pattern in the three song stretch of “1912”, “Campfire”, and “Wells” that earns the band’s most common RIYLs, but these tracks are bookended by two more deviations in the striking organ punk of “On the Mend” and closer “Dandelion Blues”, a stripped down acoustic blues piece that ends the album on a quiet, satisfying note.

Shirley is at its best when it’s trying new things, and Dead Friends manage to keep it fresh and engaging for the large majority of its duration. It’s easy to be exhausted by the sheer volume garage rock in the 21st century, but Dead Friends prove to be one of the handful of acts that make digging in the mines to find precious gold worthwhile.


You can stream Shirley in its entirety below:


Favorite tracks: “Uncle Is an Eremite”, “Molly”


Rating: Recommended


‘Shirley’ is out tomorrow, May 1st, via Wallflower Records. Be sure to follow Dead Friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bandcamp to keep up-to-date on the release and future work.

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