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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Dakota Suite
This River Only Brings Poison
Planting Seeds Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Dakota Suite is, in many ways, an American band. "Dakota" is not just an American word but a Santee Sioux word. The band recorded this album at ex-American Music Club member Bruce Kaphan's studio and released it on an American label. The music itself is a collection of late-night slowcore ruminations that could sit comfortably on a quintessentially rural indie label like Saddle Creek.

The catch is… Chris Hooson and company are from England. That's right, at a time when many American indie bands are relying heavily on British music for their inspiration, Dakota Suite returns the favor and takes a cue from Wilco, Tindersticks and Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska in what is one of the most American-sounding album by a British artist in a long time.

Of course, Brits borrowing American musical ideas is hardly new - the British Invasion, in which English musicians were, in a sense, selling Americans' own overlooked musical culture back to them, set a precedent for the kind of international exchange that has invigorated almost every genre in the second half of the 20th century.

If there's a problem with that, it's authenticity. The best British Invasion bands learned from American R &B but also added distinctly British elements. Dakota Suite may be mining post-/alt-/whatever-Americana, a more recent sound than the bands of the British Invasion, but it's still a valid comparison, and the Kinks' 1971 album, Muswell Hillbillies, is a good departure point. Sure, the Kinks was a band of British guys playing what was at the foundation an American music style; but they found common ground between the English working class and the American southern poor. To an extent they appropriated a foreign style, but they found something authentic in it as well, and in doing so transcended the limitations of both cultures. If Dakota Suite could do something similar, it might take the band beyond the pleasurable but limiting confines of their Low-inspired sound.

It would be unfair to define Dakota Suite's music in purely international terms, and the music itself, removed from such academic comparisons, is quite excellent. Songs like "The Lepers Companion," "Let's Share Wounds" and "Sand Fools the Shoreline" are moving, chamber-pop love letters to Low, and the trumpets and pedal steel guitar add a much-needed warmth to the recording. The proper songs are linked with short instrumental vignettes that use skeletal melodies on piano or guitar to further develop the album's mood, and the U.S. release includes several older songs from instrumental side efforts that flesh out the album nicely.

Dakota Suite's use of American musical instruments and styles is accomplished and lived-in; but the somber, quiet mood runs a bit long at 72 minutes. In Springsteenian terms, this album could use a bit less Nebraska and a bit more Born to Run; but it's still quite an accomplished record.

Reviewed by Erick Bieritz
Erick Bieritz lives in Chicago, where is usually either very hot or very cold. He was the brainchild behind EPMD, where he wrote about EPs and singles for LAS, looking for overlooked or underappreciated non-album releases.

See other reviews by Erick Bieritz

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