Just who is Denver Dalley? The question’s troubled listeners for a while now. Although he has a fair amount of work on his resume – an album and an EP fronting Statistics and an album playing guitar in Desparecidos, the Nebraskan’s oft-wandering musical tastes always made him a tough nut to crack. Was he a melody-loving indie kid? An experimental weirdo? A guitar-worshipping rocker? You could argue all three using bits and pieces of his Statistics work.
On Often Lie, Dalley’s second full-length as Statistics, everything slowly comes into focus, and the answer is he’s all of the above – but not in the segmented bits and pieces as before. This time, Statistics unifies Dalley’s musical vision to deliver the most song-based work in the band’s catalog, using hard-rockin’ guitars as the foundation for all his musical misdirections.
At long last, Statistics has an album that’s cohesive from end to end. While this might ruin some of the playful charms that made the eclectic (or schizophrenic, depending on your tastes) track listing on Leave Your Name (2004, Jade Tree), it establishes Dalley as a fully functioning songwriter with a vision rather than a helter-skelter I’ll-record-anything ethos. It also makes for the best songs in Dalley’s small catalog.
Dalley condenses his myriad aims into a package, showing that it’s OK to be an indie rocker who loves loud guitar. “Final Broadcast” opens the album with light, jangle-pop guitars interrupted by a crunched-up electric that burst into full power-pop punch for the chorus. “No Promises” puts rolling, full-rock-style drums under ballady guitars for a sound stuck somewhere between The Foo Fighters and Death Cab For Cutie. “Nobody Knows Your Name” and “Bye(e) Now” dabble with electronic-damaged drum sounds and guitar synths for a sound that alludes to emo-pop’s glory days without needing to drag its carcass out of the ground. With a new ear for layering his arrangements, Dalley (who writes and performs the entire album by himself) discovers a way to make all aspects of his musical personality shine on Often Lie.
Dalley doesn’t redefine our notions of indie rock, power pop or even the legacy of jangly emo (which informs Often Lie more than he’d probably like to admit), but he does strike an uneasy truce between the three to finally answer the “Just who the heck is Denver Dalley?” question.