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- Dari Bay, Longest Day of the Year
Teenage bands are cute, but they don't always pass muster. Life experience fuels art. If you haven't lived that long, you might not have a well of exploits and relationships deep enough to make truly absorbing work.
But Brattleboro's the Snaz were an exception — and exceptional. The defunct teenage quartet made preposterously sophisticated rock music in the 2010s, bringing it to life with precision and fluency well beyond its members' years. It was sad when the group broke up in 2017 after putting out two terrific albums and an EP.
Fortunately, its members continued to make music — including drummer Zack James, who performs under the moniker Dari Bay. His first proper album, the 10-song Longest Day of the Year, amplifies the scrappy garage-rock sounds of some earlier recordings with lush arrangements and forays into dream-pop, psychedelia and a bit of twang.
In a track-by-track album breakdown with Flood Magazine, James highlighted its themes. He noted the pitfalls of codependency ("Wait for You"), the inherently introspective nature of getting intentionally lost ("Same Old Bumpy Road") and the hazy euphoria of "being the last person at the party" ("Stay Awake").
But the most recurrent theme is the enigmatic nature of memories and dreams. You can hear it in the ephemeral "River," which James described as "how important memories and ideas often hold their significance better if they're somewhat obscured." The song's minimal lyrics are indeed obscured by frothy production. But the shifting gnarl of guitar chords and wah-wah solo conjure a mass of thoughts swirling and reconstituting themselves in an uninterrupted flow.
Ironically, Longest Day of the Year is quite short at just under 25 minutes. James is an economical songwriter, packing punch into tunes that mostly clock in at just over two minutes. Decorative flourishes enhance the '90s alt-rock grit at their core.
Guest Ben Rogers' pedal steel on alt-country "Imagine What Could Happen" emphasizes the weariness of quarter-life. In only a few words, James crystallizes the familiar ache of longing: "Imagine what could happen / If I rode along with you," he repeats in a gloomy whisper.
Rogers, proprietor of New Hampshire's Loud Sun Studio, is one of two pedal steel players to appear, along with Brenden Provost of Burlington mess-rock outfit Greaseface. The latter contributes to the tripped-out "Moon," a splattered wall of sound full of unfiltered longing.
As Dari Bay, James is one of the state's most compelling new voices. His mastery as songwriter, producer and musician makes him a multi-hyphenate to watch out for.
Longest Day of the Year is available at daribay.bandcamp.com.