Photographers: Chadwick Stokes; Allen Ralph; John Dragonetti; Pete Francis; Brad Corrigan.
Since emerging in the late '90s, New England trio Dispatch have been a tough band to pin down. A loosely attributed roots rock power trio with moments of pop and folk transcendence, they became D.I.Y. indie heroes during the early days of file sharing, building a massive fan base without becoming a household name. In 2007, five years after going on hiatus, they quickly sold out a three-night reunion run at Madison Square Garden, then waited another five years to reunite in the studio for 2012's Circles Around the Sun. With their sixth studio effort, 2017's America, Location 12, Dispatch continue to evolve, delivering a richly layered set that covers facets of their past while nudging them into new territory. Opener "Be Gone" is an early high point, weaving together dazzling electric riffs, pastoral West Coast tones, and exultant indie folk harmonies into a dynamic mini-opus that plays out over six minutes. It immediately feels unlike anything else in their catalog and seems pulled out of the misty hills around Panoramic House, the coastal Northern California studio where the album was recorded. The sunny African guitar feel of "Only the Wild Ones" is further indication that the trio's change of locale had a direct effect on their overall vibes. The low-key road anthem "Painted Yellow Lines" is another standout, as is "WindyLike," a gently psychedelic groover owing a significant debt to Led Zeppelin. There are slightly heavier rock moments like the politically charged "Skin the Rabbit" and the hooky "Atticus Cobain," but throughout it all, the Golden State makes its presence known in the album's stretched-out open feel. By allowing themselves to marinate in Pacific waters, Dispatch translate their ambition into something more appealingly even-keeled than on previous releases. ~ Timothy Monger