Hearing Aide: Dopapod ‘Megagem’

What’s in a name? Well, in terms of the latest Dopapod album, everything. We know the phrase “never use a word in its own definition” but for right now, we’re scrapping that. Dopapod’s Megagem is just that–an 8-track album, its title and definition all in one. 

While fans were relishing in the excitement of fresh material and the show planning that comes along with it, all came to a halt when a Facebook post from Rob Compa, Eli Winderman, Chuck Jones and Neal “Fro” Evans, stated that the ever-growing powerhouse would take a break from the road for the entirety of 2018. Megagem, while acting as the band’s mic drop before a sabbatical, can teach us all a lesson while exploring its larger thematics: cater to your needs as they need to be met–time doesn’t stop for anyone. 

Kicking things off in typical fashion with wailing guitars, stellar harmonies and entrancing tempo changes, the album launches into a powerful opener of “Plaese Haalp.” While many have already heard the tune live over the course of the last few months, this time, listeners are introduced to triumphant strings, violins and cellos, helping to create a larger than life sound. Lyricism plays a key role, detailing inner emotions and exploring parallels between time, creating music and giving attention to other avenues in life. Eventually tempo slows down as Winderman’s roaring and impressive vocals take the reigns of explaining their reasoning behind the 2018 hiatus. 

Fro leads us into “Piazole” for a few bars on the drum kit, before the rest of the band jumps in to create an eccentric tune, capturing the essence of what could double as a soundtrack from our favorite N64 video games. Coming as the first instrumental track on the album, “Piazole” tells a story all its own through incredible song structure and varying instrumental spotlight. This track feels like home as its zippiness, appropriately placed guitar solos and eerie bass line are representative of everything Dopapod does so well. “Zonk” comes next as a zany, momentary interlude, stringing together “Piazole” with the other known Megagem track, “Mucho.” As a fun addition on the release, it leaves tons of room for interpretation and live jamming, should it be played before the 2017 gigs are up. Pro tip: be extra cautious while listening for the first time in any vehicle. Abrupt horns sound off twice and can cause immediate confusion.

“Mucho” brings a diverse flavor to Megagem with airy vocals, a light-hearted message and a chorus sung entirely in Spanish. The album’s themes of fulfilling different facets of life and prioritizing fleeting time are stitched throughout the track and in the chorus that immediately follows three prominent, crowd engaging claps. For those who were wondering, the chorus translates:

“The purpose of life is simple. Have a good time until the day you die. Live life in the present moment. Just go out and have a good time, silly.”

“Confabuation” comes next with Compa and Winderman pleasantly and traditionally harmonizing vocals. As the song progresses with contextual lyrics to their current situation, inventive guitar licks slide into the spotlight before Fro masters odd time signatures and high cymbal taps to abruptly close out the track. A mysterious intro leads us into “Turn by Turn” and based on the title alone, let’s hope to see a Turn by Turn > Turning Knobs before the guys wrap up the year for good. This song instantly places you in a convertible driving along the coastline with your hair blowing in the breeze as Dopapod offers jazzy drum fills and lyrics based on colors and “stretching your minds eye,” alluding to the cerebral album art. “Turn by Turn” has fun exploring various arrangements all within one song, with creative drums that your ear just can’t stray from. The song’s lyrics end, but the tune carries on as a crescendo of sound builds stronger alongside ambient  effects before a blunt ending.

Holding down the blues on Megagem, “Buster Brown” acts as the final instrumental track. Slowed down, filled with soul and heavy on guitar, Dopapod lets the instruments smoothly speak for themselves. Compa and his guitar unmistakably shine over the course of the song but its Jones’ intricate bass-work that lays down the foundation for the jam. “Starfish” comes as the final piece to the Megagem puzzle- a spacey, intuitive ending track ready to sing you to sleep for a 365-day lullaby. It’s dreamy tone guides listeners into a utopic, upside-down world were Dopapod never goes on hiatus–a prelude to a dream acting as a perfect ending to reflect on the album as a whole. Winderman is given another opportunity for an ending psychedelic, soliloquy. Strings come into play once again to wrap “Starfish” at high volume as we come full circle to where the album’s journey all begin. 

With their most themed release to date, its apparent the quartet knew exactly where they wanted to go, as they take their listeners on a dream pop journey to the center of self fulfillment. The 5th studio album comes a a bittersweet symphony, the last creative piece relinquished by the jam rockers before the looming hiatus. While its bittersweet to know you wont witness the live, raw talent of a band so deserving of its praises for an entire year, at the very least, we’re left to see how the entire album translates on stage and if any of those strings just so happen to surface during fall tour.

The next NY show dates take place on October 27 at Irving Plaza with The Motet and Halloween trickery at Putnam Den with Burlington VT’s Swimmer.  Catch ya in 2019, Dopapod! We’ll be waiting.

Key Tracks: Piazole, Confabuation, Turn By Turn