With the issue of their sixth album Proto Retro, Dot Dash reinforce their veteran status as an established player in the alt-rock realm. While the recent release has taken a pop-ier turn, the edgy garage sound from past projects is also honed and fine-tuned.

The Washington-based trio includes Terry Banks (guitar/vocals), Hunter Bennett (bass) and Danny Ingram (drums), each having previously earned notoriety through several other credible bands including Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, Swervedriver, Tree Fort Angst, Glo-Worm, St. Christopher, The Saturday People, and Julie Ocean. The resulting music is a sort of middle ground between the likes of The Replacements and Cloud Nothings.

Jangly surf-type rock pairs perfect with soft, dream-like vocals setting a lighthearted mood. The retro sound, though a new and refreshed version, serves as an ode to simpler times. References to payphones and dead satellites, as well as the title Proto Retro support this theme.

The lyrics are full of dichotomies: high and low, up and down, wrong and right. Colourful imagery and frequent mention of the surroundings and sky lead to lazy daydream-like musings. Topics are straight-forward and the vocals are clear, lending to the humble attitude of acceptance and subtle apathy. Accompanied with the upbeat music, the lyrics speak to finding happiness in simplicity and maintaining a carefree attitude.

The first track title “Unfair Weather” suggests the futility in blaming external forces for unfortunate circumstances. Ironically happy music combined with lyrical condemnation of pretentiousness fosters earnest authenticity in the song. “Tamed a Wild Beast” sends a similar message, stressing there is no need to brag of accomplishments. It’s a lesson in modesty and alludes to the charm of being unassuming.

“Gray Blue Green” speaks to finding the middle ground. Between the highs and lows, there’s a complacency to be appreciated, a calming place for reflection and acceptance. “Fast Parade” also draws on similar contradictions leading to latent indecision and the drag of making choices. At the same time, there’s an appreciation for independence, a call to march to your own drum. Using references to flying, “Triple Rainbow” radiates pure optimism.

Other songs like “Dead Letter Rays” and “Run & Duck for Cover” are reminders of how things go wrong sometimes and that’s okay. “Parachute Powerline” provides accurate visual imagery of encountering a snag in life.

“Sun + Moon = Disguise” combines all the above themes in hard rock bravura. Speaking to hiding in plain sight, between oppositions of night and day, in the middle ground that is often ignored in pursuit of something better.

Put this album on as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff; to be content with matters that are out of your control and enjoy simplicity.

Nicole Swanson