Rightfully earning their place as one of New Jersey’s buzziest bands, Dentist was named one of the Top 10 groups at this year’s SXSW by Mercury News and a darling of critics at several national magazines and publications. Dentist centers around the songwriting partnership of Emily Bornemann (vocals and bass guitar) and Justin Bornemann (guitar), who had been writing songs and performing together in various ways since first meeting in 2008. The band is rounded out by Matt Hockenjos on drums.
Their new album, Night Swimming, juxtaposes catchy indie surf pop with lyrical themes about social anxiety and heartache. Night Swimming showcases an aggressive approach to their beach-inspired pop with lyrics covering the spectrum of human emotions. Produced by Andy Bova and Justin Bornemann, this album was mastered by Jürgen Engler (Die Krupps, Nico, Iggy and The Stooges and Queensryche).
“This album was an attempt to capture all the different aspects of ourselves and create something that we would want to listen to,” says Justin. “Musically we are attracted to rawness and simplicity, but melodically we lean towards a pop aesthetic. The lyrics tend to be focused on social anxiety, heartache, and loss, but sometimes reveal love and optimism,” adds Emily.
Said to be their most substantial release to date, the new album showcases the band’s ability to fit pop hooks into aggressive garage punk one moment, then dreamy surf pop the next. The album is cohesive but represents an exercise in capturing all aspects of the band’s personality. The group, who tour consistently, has shared the stage with Television, Screaming Females, Ringo Deathstarr and Laura Stevenson, among others.
Formed in 2013 amidst the oceanfront urban landscape of Asbury Park, Dentist’s 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. Emily’s vocals are countered by the band’s sometimes aggressive, but always addictive sound.
Dentist’s debut album, released in 2014, was described by Pandora as “a deliriously infectious collection of fuzzy, California-styled, indie pop jangle and sun-dappled garage rock crunch.”
Their sophomore album, Ceilings, was released in 2016 to critical acclaim, receiving press from Noisey and Stereogum and The Aquarian. Their single, “Meet You There (In Delaware)”, found its way onto Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlist and was chosen as one of Daytrotter’s top 100 songs of 2016.
This summer, Dentist is out on a new nationwide tour — running through July and August — in support of their Night Swimming album, which can be ordered now via Bandcamp or streamed on Spotify. This will be their most extended U.S. tour to date spanning coast to coast. As we speak, the band is on the road and winning over new fans as they take the road as their own highway to success.
I took a listen to some of the album and wanted to give my opinion on it here. So, let’s jump into the psyche that makes up Night Swimming and see just how deep we can go.
The record opens with “Upset Words.” Right away I feel a very ‘90s Breeders vibe. Justin’s guitar work is outstanding, and he’s gotten so much better and plays extremely melodic breaks, riffs, and sensible chords as Hockenjos and Emily (bass) drive the song. Emily’s vocals have also taken a turn on this record, and she is at the top of her game on “Upset Words”. Her lilting style can rise and fall with each song section like no one else in the area. Honey smooth and filled with emotion and sex-appeal, Emily is the real deal here. The chorus blasts through and stays with you for days. The overall production is pristine as well. Instrumentation is full but sparse at the same time. Nothing is added to color the song, and it shines like a diamond. The middle-eight guitar utilizes chorded riffs and stays in the melodic pocket before falling back for Emily to finish up with that killer chorus.
The next song is the record’s namesake. “Night Swimming” blows into the speakers with mid-tempo ease, complex guitar chords, and exotic rhythm section. Emily sings and harmonies shimmer under her like an aural delight. I love the way her voice sounds in the echo-based effect, and while it doesn’t work with a lot of artists, Emily makes it all her own. Once again, Emily is the focus as she takes us on her journey through relationship situations and life’s quandary. Justin uses his Telecaster to blend lush chords and intricate riffs behind Emily and Hockenjos as she sings. Justin breaks out a strong middle-eight lead of single note fury before the band ends with a flourish. This is a great song and should do quite well for Dentist. The one thing I love about this band is that with each record they release, they get better and better and “Night Swimming” is a prime example of superb songwriting.
Moving around the disc, I came to a song called “All is Well (In Hell)”. Dentist takes it down a notch here, and it works well. Acoustic guitars are the focus at Justin blends sparkling notes behind it. Once again, he doesn’t waste time with theatrics and leaves the listener with a solid bar of pure and incredible sound. When Emily joins in the song reaches a different level. As I’ve said in this column in the past, Emily has one of the most original vocals in the business. Emotional, intimate and filled with musical passion, Emily leads this song as Justin supplies stark background chords and soundscapes of electric guitar goodness. This is a prime example of another well-written song, as each section folds into the next with precision and grace. While it’s one of their more subdued on the disc, it shines just as bright as the others.
“Owl Doom Pt. 2” is also another song of note. The band uses their trademark blend of surf, pop, and alternative rock to take the listener on their journey. I love the chords that swing underneath Emily’s charming vocal and the attitude that Hockenjos provides (along with Emily) as they lay down some tasty rhythm section work. Meanwhile, Justin sways and trills with Fender brilliance. Using his single-note style, Justin lays six-string atmosphere across the songs palette with crisp style and skill. His middle-eight lead break is frenetic and emotionally correct, linking the two sections (bridge and chorus) like clockwork. Bornemann’s lyrical content focuses on love and relationship issue, but she does it with such style that you never really focus on anything but the way she tells her story which is good. Meanwhile, Justin continues his sophisticated form of surf-styled guitar riffs, and big, luxurious chords as Hockenjos holds down the bottom line. A superb tune that should do well on radio.
Night Swimming has a total of 11 songs, was put out by Cleopatra Records out of Los Angeles, and is available through Spotify and Bandcamp. The band is in the middle of their two-month tour as we speak, and from what I’ve seen on Facebook, they seem to be having a blast and making new fans across their tour area every day. Night Swimming is the absolute best from Dentist to date, and I can only think that they will continue to do well and create meaningful new music with each release.
For more information on Dentist and Night Swimming, head over to cleorecs.com or go to the band’s site at dentistband.com for more details and instructions on how to pick up this new and exciting record.