Dentist is back with another outstanding record born of Jersey blood, sweat, and tears. Dentist comes from the oceanfront urban landscape of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Their sound combines the freedom of the beach atmosphere and the urgency of the city into a fuzzed out, surf punk-tinged brand of indie pop with hooks and infectious melodies to spare. The ethereal vocals of Emily Bornemann are countered by the sometimes aggressive, but always addictive sounds of the rest of the band. In addition to Emily on rhythm guitar, those sounds are generated by Justin Bornemann (guitar), Nick Kaelblein (bass), and Rudy Meier (drums).
Dentist formed in 2013, built around the songwriting partnership of Emily and Justin. The pair had been writing songs and performing together in various ways since their first meeting in 2008 at the legendary punk hangout, TGI Fridays.
The band released their self-titled debut album in 2014. On the strength of their debut, Dentist toured extensively in the Northeast and shared the stage with a variety of national acts, including JEFF The Brotherhood, Laura Stevenson, Television, Screaming Females, Ringo Deathstarr, Mrs. Magician, and more. More recently, the band completed a tour through the American South over to Texas, picking up new fans along the way.
Dentist recently released their sophomore album late this summer, Ceilings, via Asbury Park’s Little Dickman Records. For the second time, the band worked with Andy Bova at Simple Sound Studios. Ceilings builds on the sounds of the debut album while managing to retain all of the irresistible elements that made the first record a compelling listen. Showcasing their evolution as a band, the songs have a new sense of space and airiness: Emily’s vocals come to the foreground, and Dentist explores new ground, lyrically and sonically.
At its core, Ceilings is still the sun-soaked party, the addictive listen begging to be put on repeat; however, just below the surface is a depth that reveals a band truly hitting their stride.
I took a listen to the record, and this is what I came up with on the band, the music and the very soul that puts this group at the top of their game.
“Climbed Too Many Trees” is first up at bat. Steeped in the land of pop-based punk rock glory, the band demonstrates its ongoing talent as composers with this catchy ditty. Bar chords tear into the intro as guitarist Justin Bornemann lays down a tasty riff that doubles as a hook in the tune. When Emily comes into the mix it’s pure alt-based genius. Her voice has a lilt all of its own, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Her melodic structure fits the band to a tee, and her sonic additions put this song way high up on the list of great Jersey rock and roll. Rhythm work supplied by Nick Kaelblein (bass) and Rudy Meier (drums) is outstanding, and they support both Bornemanns on their journey to compositional construction quite well.
“Awful” is up next. Combining the cunning bravado of The Breeders with the artistic craft of the surf bands and hair bands of the ’60s, “Awful” is anything but that. Justin works well within the structure, hanging back at the right times, allowing Emily time to do her reverb-drenched thing before charging back in to lift the choruses into the stratosphere. Once again, Kaelblein and Meier tear it up, strapping the tune to the bench as the Bornemanns run free.
“Meet You There In Delaware” pops into the speakers next. If you like the Go-Go’s or old Blondie, this is your song. The one thing I hear that could use an adjustment is that Emily’s vocals are drenched in way too much reverb, at least at the beginning of the song. I know that’s part of their thing, but her voice needs to be heard at all times. Justin’s guitar work is gnarly and filled with distorted angst, as is Emily’s. Emily is a great guitar player and adds tons of vibe to this band’s overall sound. The verses flow well, and the choruses are outstanding. I really love this song a lot. The bridge is also cool as hell, and I love the way the guitar sings along with Emily’s melodic twist.
“Over And Over” is up next and sends the band into an entirely different and delicious direction. Based on Emily’s outstanding vocal inflection, Justin’s guitar work hums with urgency and musical harmonizing as well. Justin has learned his six-string work well, and he balances the band’s timbre with his melodic lines. Between Justin and Emily, they lay down a wild pathway for Kaelblein and Meier to follow them on. Probably one of their best radio-oriented songs to date. This should do well for the band.
“Body Slam Move” is up next. If you like Madder Rose or Babes In Toyland you’re going to love this tune. Utilizing thunderous rhythm section work and tube-fueled guitar blitzes, Dentist slays when it comes to laying out punk-styled goodness with a pop attitude. The record is produced with the intention of gaining new listeners, and it’s an admirable job. Guitar tones and vocal ministrations are top shelf as is the rock steady rhythm work. The chorus goes on for days, and it’s a good one. There’s really nothing bad about this band or their compositional flair.
“Joel” undulates out of the speakers next. Emily lays seductive tone across the tremolo warble of Justin’s guitar work and it’s a beauty to hear. When the entire band kicks in, it’s pure, unaltered fun. Guitars, bass, and drums charge in to pepper the listener with emphatic bouts of energy and musical aggression as Emily singsongs her gentle and harmonic vocals all over the top.
“You’re A Bore” pumps out with mid-tempo grit and moxie. Emily once again commands the song with her melodic tone as Justin pings solar-aimed notes off the ceiling and into the heart of the song. Emily and Justin power up into the bridges with a two-guitar fury that sounds like something you might hear on a Sugarcubes record. Once again the rhythm work of Nick and Rudy settle everything right over the sweet spot.
“You Say” rips into the mix with all the fury of a P.J. Harvey tune. Utilizing an almost 1950s formula, the band soars into their passionate direction of sound. Emily is a consummate singer, and her voice joins the band in a celebration of musical sound not heard by many others around. Andy Bova is a masterful engineer and producer and really captures this band at its best. It’s a great working relationship that should continue as long as possible.
“AirVent” is a slow-burning version of Dentist, beginning with Emily and guitars, burrowing into their inevitable moment when they burst forth and tear out of the compositional cocoon. Relying on mid-tempo goodness, the band works as a crack unit building upon verses, bridges, and eventual choruses until they are blaring before coming back down into the next pocketed verse. This is one of the clearest showcases of Emily’s vocal work and she shines bright and powerful here. Compelling and addictive, this is yet another Dentist song that should bring them more airplay.
The last song on the disc is called “Digging Up The Dog.” Acoustic guitars shuffle under Emily’s lifting verse work. The band comes in with the second verse, and they keep it tight and light. Guitars growl under taught bass and drums as Emily tells the tale of life’s changes. Justin’s middle-eight lead work is old school pentatonic scaled rock and works like everything else on this disc.
Dentist has done quite well with Ceilings. With a combination of pop, punk, and compositional excellence as their ammunition, I don’t see how they can miss radio with this delicious platter. To find out what they are up to and to grab this incredible record, head over to dentistband.com and check it out. You can also catch them at the House Of Independents in Asbury Park on Nov. 18 and The Asbury on Dec. 2.