Montreal-based Doldrums twists everything he can get his hands on. In his first full-length studio album, Lesser Evil, Airick Woodhead — the 23-year-old behind Doldrums — takes the traditional pop mold and flips it on its head. Like his contemporary and fellow Canadian Grimes, Woodhead utilizes a bleep-bloop electro synth style to create a unique take on pop. However, Doldrums’ goal is to disorient his listeners and separate them from reality. From his androgynous vocals to his unrelenting waves of warped beats, his album is a blatant attack on the senses.
While Doldrums’ bewildering sound is utterly unpredictable, Lesser Evil takes listeners on a surreal journey, drawing them into a distorted universe of disorienting tremors and perplexing themes. Though some of his slower songs can at times be a bit daunting, Doldrums creates music that is worth experiencing in its entirety. Each track oscillates between jerkiness and fluidity. They bend and flow from one into another to create a cohesive piece that oddly serves as an antithesis to Doldrums’ erratic sound.
“Anomaly” is our first encounter with Doldrums’ pop-gone-awry style. From beginning to end, I continuously expected to hear a traditional beat as Woodhead dangles these familiar sounds in front of the listener, but just as we are about to take the bait, he snatches away anything remotely recognizable.
While “Anomaly” is not one of Doldrums’ most discombobulated tracks, it is one of the more remarkable songs thanks to its especially powerful blend of the old and the new. During the chorus, Woodhead sighs a wordless melody as if he is Peter Gabriel creating his own rendition of “The Look of Love”. However, his disjointed synth beats corrupt this could-be love song from ever being a part of a John Hughes movie. The psychedelic track brings the listener in and out of a trance with a snap.
The waves of vocals at the end of “Anomaly” provide a flawless transition into the much more active and in-your-face single “She is the Wave” — an almost too appropriate music transfer given the title and subsequent sound.
“She is the Wave” is the most compelling track on the album. The single takes a different approach than its predecessor. Instead of corrupting the pop sound, “She is the Wave” puts pop on the back burner altogether while Doldrums concentrates on combining sliding wiggles and pounding beats. The unique standout single is the most energetic piece on the album, especially in comparison to “Anomaly,” and this harsh juxtaposition keeps listeners on their toes. With each listen of Lesser Evil, I found myself craving “She is the Wave” more and more.
“Egypt,” another of Lesser Evil’s singles, is an intricate piece that commands attention. With piercing pings and languid vocals, the track’s compelling cacophony of beats merge into a twisted yet precise orchestration that is completely unexpected. The lyrics repeat “Now I’m over the edge” over and over, which is apt for a track that could have been plucked straight out of Wonderland.
The title track is an oddly sensual piece of avant-garde electronics that changes pace at a moment’s notice. The dreamy trance will gain mortal strength and then instantly fall back into the otherworldly haze. This pattern repeats over and over, but each time it evolves and challenges what came before. Like Doctor Frankenstein pulling the switch of harnessed energy, “Lesser Evil” will jolt you alive when you least expect it. Doldrums manipulates the listener’s senses, leaving you in the palm of his hand. His music is his experiment. You are the test subject. And you are at his mercy.
Listen after listen, I discovered more in each crevice of Lesser Evil. Doldrums’ unscrupulous synth-pop sound and chaotic beats relentlessly attack and overwhelm the senses. It is easy to get lost in this addicting experience, which feels endless yet momentary. Doldrums draws his audience into his music with no intention to let them go, and honestly, I have no desire to withdraw from the disorienting yet unforgettable experience.
Doldrums Tour Dates:
02-28 – Montreal, QC – The Plant #
03-08 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre *&
03-09 – Columbus, OH – Double Happiness *
03-10 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt *
03-20 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room # @
03-21 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar # @
03-22 – Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Bar # @
03-25 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios # @ ^
03-26 – Seattle, WA – Barboza # @
03-27 – Vancouver, BC – Biltmore # @
03-29 – Edmonton, AB – Wunderbar # @
03-30 – Calgary, AB – Hi Fi # @
03-31 – Saskatoon, SK – Amigos # @
04-02 – Winnipeg, MB – Windsor Arms # @
04-03 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry @
04-04 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern @
04-05 – London, ON – APK @
04-06 – Guelph, ON – Warehouse @
04-11 – Baltimore, MD – Coward Show @
04-12 – Philadelphia, PA – Voyeur +
04-13 – Brooklyn, NY – 285 Kent
04-17 – Atlanta, GA – The Tabernacle $
04-19 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues $
04-20 – Austin, TX – Austin Music Hall $
04-22 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues $
04-24 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre $
04-25 Pomona, CA – The Fox Theatre $
04-27 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre $
05-01 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
05-03 St. Louis, MO – Firebird
05-04 Cincinnati, OH – MOTR Pub
05-07 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
05-08 – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
# with Blue Hawaii
* with AGOR
& with Deastro
@ Sean Nicolas Savage
^ with Strategy
$ with Crystal Castles
+ with Autre Ne Veut and Jaques Greene
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