Prettiest Transmitter of All
'Best of 2008.' -T.O. Snob, Snob's Music Blog, 12/05/08 '4 STARS' -Al Kaufman, Atlanta Music Guide, 12/10/08 '...passionately sung, and loaded with inventive instrumental arrangements, surprising melodic twists, and multiple layers of wonderful, shimmery guitar work. And it rocks out, too. A joy to listen to.' -Dave Mandl, WFMU-FM DJ; Music Editor, The Brooklyn Rail '...a wonderful new alt. Rock CD....crunchy, earthy, sour-pop...a welcome blast of well-constructed, invigorating alt. Rock. The record, which instantly evokes comparisons to Dukes' acknowledged influences Sparklehorse and Will Oldham's alter-ego Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (as well as contemporaries The Rosebuds and Deathray Davies), is a triumph of sparseness. It's blend of softly-strummed rhythm guitar, minimalist keyboards, chiming electric guitar leads, driving-but understated-drums and the occasional brass instrument cameo, also recalls the output of a handful of seminal 'college' artists of the '80s and '90s, like Barbara Manning and-at times-the softer and more wistful side of They Might Be Giants. It's a real sleeper.' -Jim Reed, 'Seeing Liabilities as Opportunities,' Connect Savannah,October 29, 2008 The songs that make up Dare Dukes' new album, Prettiest Transmitter of All, are a striking combination of incisive intelligence and sweet, doleful hooks. Looking past the shiny surfaces of American life, the Savannah, GA-based singer-songwriter chronicles the everyday world, mining the margins for the eccentric characters and bizarre events that are the heart of his music. Born and raised in the exurb of San Jose, California, Dare grew up as the state blossomed into what he calls, 'exit-ramp culture'-a maze of smoked-glass franchises and cookie-cutter subdivisions that took root along the vast network of interstate freeways. 'Everyone knows the clichés about suburbia: It's a stark, sanitized landscape, pretty much soulless," Dare explains. "No one needs to remind us of that. I'm more interested in the poetry I see there--the weirdness, the anomalies, the resistance. Even in this unlikely grid you can find courageous people and precious things.' Moving to Minneapolis in his twenties, Dare began playing music as bands like Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland, and the Jayhawks were emerging to define that city's post-Replacements sound. Influenced by seminal post-punk groups like the Pixies and Fugazi, and musical raconteurs like Tom Waits and Kurt Weill, Dare fronted the Penelopes, a frenetic quartet that was a fixture in the city's rock clubs. After moving to New York City, Dare took a hiatus from music to focus on writing and theater, but began playing out again, backed by friends and expert musicians Mark Boquist and Paul Garisto. This collaboration led to the bulk of the arrangements for the songs Dare produced for Prettiest Transmitter of All. 'America is a crazy, scary, and fascinating landscape,' Dare says. 'The reality is a lot more interesting to me than what the nightly news depicts. The way I see it, it's a place filled with eccentric characters, all on their own strange mission--some nuts, some saner than the rest of us. These missions, these people, they are what my music is about.' 'The Ballad Of Darius McCollum,' a burning uptempo number inspired by actual events, makes clear Dare's skills as both songwriter and producer. The song captures the insouciant compulsion of a Lower East Side man with Asperger Syndrome who, obsessed with the subway system, impersonates a conductor and commandeers a train, driving it several stops before being caught. With his high, lilting and plaintive voice, Dare wistfully inhabits McCollum, while the grind of the rhythm section, the crunch of guitars, and an ethereal keyboard line join together to push the song to near perfection. 'Bakersfield,' which Dare describes as 'the closest thing I have to a traditional song,' is heartbreaking in it's spare depiction of lonely desperation. Minimally arranged, the song builds measure by measure, as visually arresting lyrics describe a man's search for his lost lover. By the time trumpet and trombone blow in to announce the protagonist's arrival in Bakersfield, the song has created a large and empathetic space, large enough for the listener step into. With the album due in early November and a regional tour of the Southeast in the works, Dare is eager to have the album heard. With a head full of ideas, he's already begun work on a new batch of songs, and plans to go back into the studio early next year after finishing support for Prettiest Transmitter of All. His goal for the next project is to push the boundaries of his instrumentation as far as the limits of his lyrical imagination. But for now, Prettiest Transmitter of All, with it's intelligence, eclectic soul and richly layered melodies, is an album to savor.