It was a busy 2013 for one of Detroit's best music stories of the last few years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. released their Patterns EP in April just in time for their hometown concert on Record Store Day, the second straight year they have packed the Majestic Theatre downtown. Patterns gave a preview of their much anticipated second full length album The Speed Of Things which followed in October, along with another triumphant Detroit concert, this time at the Jack White Theater in November.
As much as I enjoyed their 2011 debut album It's A Corporate World, the duo of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott out-did themselves on the follow-up. The production is stronger, as hard as it is to believe the songs are catchier and the lyrics are deeper. Again, this is not to slight the first album, they just took what worked and improved upon it. A few of the tracks even call to mind the direction their former projects, The Silent Years and The Great Fiction, were going in before DEJJ took off.
The Speed Of Things is loaded with expertly crafted pop songs, a few tender ballads and all manner of DEJJ's electronic bells, whistles and effects. Their gift of sweet melodies and harmonies runs throughout each song. Epstein takes the lead on "Run" and "Don't Tell Me", both perfect electronic pop tunes. He is also front and center on what currently stands as my favorite DEJJ song, the appropriately titled "A Haunting". This song most reminds me of the material I heard performed live from Epstein's The Silent Years band, off their sadly still never released Spider Season album. The song slowly builds, adding instrumentation as it goes, while lyrically it's a little heavier than past DEJJ material, lamenting past failures in relationships.
On the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum is the album's first single "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On The Dancefloor)". Zott takes the lead vocal on this gem, as infectious a song as was released in 2013, so much so, it should have rivalled Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" in unavoidability. "Hiding" has a sing-along chorus that works great live and listen for Epstein's sax work on album closer "War Zone", another live favorite. It's always nice to see local musicians achieve national recognition, especially those you see work so hard for years around town. With their immense talent, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. have made the most of this opportunity and produced one of 2013's best albums.
Favorite tracks: "A Haunting", "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On The Dancefloor)", "Don't Tell Me", "Hiding"
The Speed of Things was released October 8, 2013 via Warner Bros. Records.