Dutch

A Bright Cold Day

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A Bright Cold Day, the long-awaited (and long in the making) side project from Jedi Mind Tricks producer Stoupe, under the name Dutch (with vocalist Liz Fullerton, who first worked with JMT on their 2006 album Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell), is the kind of thing that reminds you what you like about pop music. Not pop music in the bubbly, teenage sleepover kind of way, but well-written, well-played pop music that knows a hook from a chorus, a line from a verse. The most obvious comparison here is Portishead, and that's not untrue, but it's also a bit of a cop-out, because depending on Stoupe's setup, Fullerton can sound like Aimee Mann ("Charlotte"), Laura Veirs ("Meaning of Unequipped"), or even Sia à la Zero 7 ("Cerulean") more than she does Beth Gibbons (nor are Stoupe's compositions quite as dire as most of Portishead's). Dutch are more than capable of tackling the subtleties these other approaches demand, but it's the songs that seem most equipped for Vinnie Paz's rhymes that are the standouts here -- and what make you want to keep listening to the album again and again -- like the excellent "Just Before the Rain" or "Tristessa," a play perhaps on the Kerouac spelling of the Spanish word for "sadness." This is high-drama songwriting, with plenty of strings and emotive samples, compressed and highly designed parts, and it works: these are songs that you don't forget. Not every track, of course, is quite as memorable -- the aforementioned "Cerulean," for example, or "2,000 Leagues Under My Keyboard," which feels a bit too cloying and nearing Sarah McLachlan territory to be as effective as it would like -- but many are very good, and even though there's no secret formula being used here, A Bright Cold Day is, in parts and in sum, a very excellent release.

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