Made up of young Portland couple Timothy Heller and Jared Ryan Maldonado, Dresses offer up a sticky sweet, meticulously polished set of squeaky clean indie rock on their debut album Sun Shy, dabbling with electronics and party-starting beats only as often as they veer away from themes of love and romance to investigate darker ideas. Heller's immaculate, somewhat smoky voice commands the best songs here, starting with the trifecta of the band's strongest material which opens the album. The early morning, acoustic indie folk of "Back to Life," the eerie catchiness of "Blew My Mind," and the jaunty indie-dance bounce of "Sun Shy" are easily the "hits" of the record, offering the best looks at the duo's stylistic range as well as their hookiest melodies and instrumentation. Things after these three standouts are a little less memorable. Sleepy yet pleasant tunes like "Real People" and "Sticks and Stones" are great examples of Dresses' folkier, less inventively produced side, with gliding piano and muted acoustics supporting Heller's indie rasp. The deceptively poppy "Friends Are Dead" offers a different perspective than the band's usual wistful, dreamy-eyed fare, with lyrics about nihilistic dreams and struggling with fatalistic impulses. It's a far cry from the somewhat faceless commercial indie sentiments that follow just a few songs later on the sepia-toned John Mayer-meets-Feist preciousness of "Gotta Love," and one of the only moments that suggests more depth than the fully enjoyable but sometimes ignorable indie rock tropes of the rest of the album.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas