Album review: “Shoot the Dog” by The Cloak Ox

The band’s first full-length blends slow-burning ballads with up-tempo garage rock.

by Alexander Brodsky

Minneapolis sort-of super group The Cloak Ox released their first full length album “Shoot the Dog” Tuesday, with members of Lateduster, Dosh, Fog and Alpha Consumer coming together to record the follow up to 2011’s “Prisen” EP.

“Shoot the Dog” delivers enough memorable choruses and song variety to set it apart from contemporary indie rock albums. The record drifts between tempos and dynamics but manages to remain cohesive thanks to lead singer Andrew Broder’s distinctive vocal style.

The album kicks off with the 9-minute slow-burner “Yesterday’s Me,” a retrospective track that continuously builds up only to cut back down to a sparse, haunting refrain.

The energy immediately picks up with the next track, “Josephine.” The frenetic first single wouldn’t sound out of place blasting out of loudspeakers at a football game right after Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” The song flies by at a million-mile-an-hour pace, alternating between slick guitar riffing and a chorus that’ll stick in your brain for weeks to come.

Beneath the catchiness of “Josephine,” and the rest of the album, for that matter, lie bittersweet messages — the album is littered with lyrics about mistakes, regrets and scorned lovers.

“Don’t listen to me now, I will only lie about it later on,” Broder sings on “Don’t Listen.”

The off-kilter “King Rope” features a skittish drum beat supported by an almost Motown bass line. “You cannot get away with everything,” sings a desperate-sounding Broder. His expressive, quavering voice recalls The Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth. Each chorus swells to a melodic whole before returning to the sparse verse.

An album standout, “Pigeon Lung” manages to spin the titular phrase into one of the most strangely uplifting tracks on the entire album.

Only in the extended codas of “Andy Broder’s Dream” and “Yesterday’s Me” does the album recall the spacey post-rock roots of Lateduster and Dosh. The influence of Broder’s previous project Fog, shows through in bits and pieces of mellow segments that showcase his vocals more than any instrument. Unlike Fog, however, The Cloak Ox interject these subdued segments with prominent guitar lines and loud refrains.

All in all, “Shoot the Dog” contains enough variety and solid songwriting to set it a notch above your standard garage-ish rock album. Despite all the flare throughout the record, The Cloak Ox are at their best when they keep it simple.