As Mega Bog, songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Erin Birgy evolved over the course of multiple strong records, with changes in style and energy seeming to come from within more than in response to outside forces. Her work grew from smoky Pacific Northwestern indie to tense zigzags of sax and synth, the songwriter's raw moods and powerful reflections sitting in the center of whatever shape her music took. On fifth album Dolphine, Birgy delivers her strongest and clearest collection of songs to date. Aided by longtime friends from Iji, Hand Habits, and Big Thief, Birgy's always-dense arrangements feel more deliberate and uncluttered than even on 2017's relatively straightforward Happy Together. Clean production highlights the quick swings in style from one track to another. Album opener "For the Old World" finds Birgy's vaporous vocals haunting a rhythm Stereolab might have devised during a particularly heavy phase of obsession with the Free Design, sounding both bubbly and horrifying at any given second. This already multicolored approach melts into the springy bounce of "Left Door," a tune that recalls Joni Mitchell's most playful work with twisting, light jazz melodies that break into jaunty pop. Elsewhere on Dolphine, the title track opens with a web of cosmic synth arpeggios that usher in layers of vocal harmonies that eventually blur into aquatic delay. Bright folk abruptly dead-ends into horn sections, hooky piano, wobbling synths, and raw lyrics both political and personal. Birgy's command over both her arrangements and Dolphine's emotional flow meet with some of her best songs, making the album her strongest statement in a history of exceptional work.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas