Album Review: Damn Tall Buildings, ‘Sleeping Dogs’

This year has been full of new releases that were written—or at least recorded—during pandemic lockdown. It’s been interesting to see all the artistic directions people were taking during that giant pause in the world.

While many folks spent the time ruminating on life’s big questions and how to navigate a new paradigm, it would seem Damn Tall Buildings came away with a certain trench humor on their new album, Sleeping Dogs (out today).

All things considered, it’s refreshing to hear them couch dark, emotional lyricism amid such throw-your-cares-to-the-wind instrumentation. Yes, times are hard. We’re all lonesome and exhausted and overwhelmed. But we can still have fun.

There’s a certain chaos and resignation to the disc, but also a determination to find joy. It is as though someone handed Pippi Longstocking a banjo.

“What a Nice Life” is a paean to the beforetimes, with lyrics that drip with the longing and loss of identity so many folks have been grappling with—delivered as a sort of kazoo march. “Painter” is a fantasy about better times (“I got new shoes baby and I’m feeling fine”). The title track is part old-timey fiddle tune, part contemporary country, with lyrics about proceeding into the unknown with determination and optimism. “Dark Window Panes” considers the apocalypse via a fiddle rumpus and rapid unison harmonies.

“All the good living’s at the end of the road,” they sing. “At the end of the road, at the end of the road, it’s the end of the road!” Try not to dance to that one.

It’s not that the band is just here to be silly. Their instrumentation is tight and creative. Their harmonies are exacting and energetic. When the proverbial sky clears for fiddler Avery Ballotta to take the lead, it’s always an absolute pleasure. Guitarist/banjoist Max Capistran tackles his tasks with inventive, percussive aplomb. Bassist/vocalist Sasha Dubyk has tremendous vocal skill that is barely contained in the melodies here.

To boot, Damn Tall Buildings is here to make joy from the proverbial dumpster fire. To skewer the absurdity into which the world has descended, with an air of ironic transcendence and some raucous stringband interplay. What’s not to love?


Sleeping Dogs is available HERE.


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