On Ex Cops' sophomore full-length album, 2014's Daggers, the duo of vocalist/instrumentalist Brian Harding and vocalist Amalie Bruun shade their '80s and '90s-influenced rock pastiche to an even finer, more subtle hue. As with the group's 2013 debut, True Hallucinations, Daggers showcases all of their very specific influences, from fuzz guitar-laden noise rock to dreamy shoegaze to buoyant and danceable new wave pop. However, rather than coming off as an endless checklist of name-the-influence, Daggers sounds more like a unified group sound where the influences merely give context to Ex Cops' production choices and melodic nods. Cuts like "White Noise" and "Pretty Shitty," with their driving percussion, chuga-chuga guitar, and soaring choruses, certainly prove that Ex Cops have found a sweet spot combining the sound of '90s artists like Velocity Girl, the Cardigans, and Sheryl Crow. The group's knack for combining disparate influences into a cohesive track is perhaps best represented by their inspired mix of Human League and ABBA on the exuberant "Modern World." Featuring dual lead vocals from Harding and Bruun, the track is a Eurovision-ready anthem replete with shimmery piano hits and uplifting lyrics like "I wanna wake up in your car/White diamond shine is who we are." And it's not just vintage sounds that Ex Cops are interested in. There's also a heavy contemporary R&B and electronic dance music vibe throughout much of Daggers, with cuts like the title track, "Teenagers," and "Burnt Out Love" bringing to mind the modern electronic soul of artists like Jessie Ware and Ariana Grande as much as Ray of Light-era Madonna. Which isn't to say the album is too slick for its own good. On the contrary, cuts like the atmospheric and twang-heavy "Rooms" and the lilting freak folk of "Tragically Alright," featuring Ariel Pink, prove that Ex Cops haven't moved that far afield of their indie rock roots. Ultimately, it's Ex Cops' knack for writing sophisticated and catchy pop music that makes Daggers, with its layers of stylistic pop influences, such a fresh experience.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar