Album Review: DMA's - For Now
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After making a huge impression with their debut album Hills End back in 2016, DMA’s return with the Britpop-infused follow-up, For Now.
Guitarist Johnny Hook calls the band’s sophomore album “natural progression”, claiming that they’re still working out what kind of band they want to be; “We still have that jangly rock n’ roll aspect, but it’s matured in other ways.”
Following a record that went gold in their home of Australia, as well as spreading to audiences across Europe and North America, was never going to be an easy task. The trio pick up exactly where they left off; beaming with confidence and creating timeless tracks, heavily inspired by the Britpop Mancunian sounds from the 90s.
Opening with the title track, For Now kicks into action with a pacey and emphatic opening song. The previously released single eases listeners into the album with its sense of familiarity. As one of their oldest songs they’ve written, ‘For Now’ doesn’t stray from the DMA’s that fans have come to know and love. This precedes ‘Dawning’, a similarly pacey indie anthem with a prominent noughties rock influence.
The band revealed that they placed more emphasis on production when recording For Now than they did with Hills End, bringing The Presets’ Kim Moyes on board to assist. This is evident in the third track ‘Time & Money’, with its impeccably clear and tidy finish which contrasts DMA’s usual sound. Driven by its shoe-gaze hooks, the tone of the track transitions from melancholy to uplifting, highlighting a greater sense of maturity from the band in their songwriting.
The album reaches its summit at track number five, ‘The End’. Written by guitarist Johnny Hook, the ballad-like echoing vocals from O’Dell initially set a melancholic tone, before the instrumentals break down into a hazy, infectious hook, heavily reminiscent of early MGMT or The Strokes. Stepping away from their Britpop influences, an engaging and unique sound is beautifully crafted, which sends the record soaring to its pinnacle and defining moment.
‘Warsaw’ reverts to DMA’s hazy indie sound, not too distant from sounding like a punchier version of ‘Step Up the Morphine’ from Hills End. ‘Do I Need You Know’ follows with a darker undertone, before erupting into ‘Break Me’ with its rousing lyrics and anthemic chorus. The album teeters on repetitive with ‘Lazy Love’, which fails to spark any excitement, falling a little short in comparison to the rest of the record.
In contrast, ‘Tape Deck’ brings some interesting production taking the album into a new direction. It is here where DMA’s seem to experiment most with a different sound - not significantly, but enough to spark some imagination of future releases. For Now begins to wind down with the wistful acoustic ballad ‘Health’, which uses a similar stripped-back sound to ‘Delete’ and ‘So We Know’ from the debut. The trio establish a knack for writing and executing emotive ballads, which seem to beautifully complement O’Dell’s dreamy vocal abilities. Closing number ‘Emily Whyte’ is easy enough on the ears, seeing the record out with a calming, laid-back melody. Though O’Dell again perfects delicate and emotional storytelling with Johnny Hook’s soothing acoustic riffs behind him, the track feels too safe to leave a lasting impact.
Despite their likeness to 90s Britpop bands, DMA’s modern twist helps to comfortably cement their place in the very current wave of pop-rock outfits dominating charts and festival line-ups. Though the tracks in For Now are undoubtedly infectious, with their timeless indie hooks and dreamy tones, the record as a whole doesn’t add much more depth to their back-catalogue than the debut album did. O’Dell’s vocals show glimpses of progression and a touch more maturity than the previous record, with guitarist Johnny Hook successfully writing For Now’s pinnacle point with ‘The End’. With an extensive list of worldwide tours and festivals already confirmed, For Now sets DMA’s year onto a very promising path.