“Healer of the Pride”
by Chad Jewett
On Broad Shoulders, Dikembe paired weary plaintiveness to bright, melody-spangled emo, offering wry takes on everything from Hot Rod Circuit to Northstar that cut through its own indie-pop optimism with a vague, quarter-life haziness. “Healer of the Pride,” our first listen from the band’s upcoming split with emo godfathers The Jazz June (via Tiny Engines and Topshelf Records), doubles down on that mixture of sweetness and exhaustion. Steven Gray’s crisp, reedy twang finds a beleaguered tunefulness amongst the song’s warm guitar pop; Gray excels in sounding catchy and inviting despite himself, like a good storyteller who’s never in the mood to tell stories. The song is an intriguingly dense aural experience and almost sounds packed in cotton, so rounded and well-used is its aesthetic. Indeed, while most records sound richer on vinyl, Dikembe’s ultra-worn production aesthetic seems to demand that format.
While the songs first half clatters away in major key good-naturedness, Gray’s weariness slowly soaks into the “Healer of the Pride.” The track’s back stretch unfurls into the kind of spacious, gloomy wash that has defined recent work from Prawn and Pillow Talk, evincing an increasing ear for shoegaze atmospherics in contemporary emo and post-hardcore that betrays the continued influence of expansive post-hardcore albums like Brand New’s similarly bleary The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (a record that wrapped emo in gauzy gloom and spaciousness, and which sounds better every year). “Healer of the Pride” never pulls back out of that uncanny ebb tide, leaving the song’s ending vaguely unsettling, like an abruptly dark close to a faintly happy movie. Dikembe have expanded on the brief, easily-liked missives of Broad Shoulders by pairing that tunefulness to more complicated ideas, allowing the two to offset and shake one another up. Think of it like Florida weather, moving from “mostly sunny” to “partly cloudy”.