By Al Kaufman
At first glance, The Submarines are bubble gum pop. They are popsicles and lemonade in the summertime. They are perky blonde Blake Hazard’s girlish vocals. But while their songs may taste like candy, they are actually quite good for you.
Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti put out their first CD, Declare a New State, in 2006. It dealt with the couple’s break-up and reconciliation. It was a mellow CD with some delicious darkness. By the time 2008’s Honeysuckle Weeks came out, the couple was happily married. The songs were disgusting lovey-dovey, and their single, “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie,” was used in an iPhone commercial. Now, in 2011, cracks seem to have seeped into their relationship. But they are comfortable enough to sing about them.
“I’ve had better days than this” sings Dragonetti on the first line of the opening track, “Shoelaces.” Yet he follows that up with “Still you’re worth falling down for once in a while.” The couple then sing in harmony about trying not to let the other down. The song may be the couple’s ultimate undoing, however. If Primitive Radio Gods ever hear how close the melody of “Shoelaces” is to their “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand,” they have a easy victory for copyright infringement.
On the mostly acoustic sounding “A Satellite, Stars and an Ocean Behind You” Hazard remarks, “After 10 years together we’re still 10 years apart,” before begging Dragonetti to just “let me love you like I did before the fight.” With all good love there is pain, and Hazard and Dragonetti not only accept it, they thrive on it.
“The Sun Shines at Night” offers up that happy pop that people have come to expect from the duo. “The sun shines at night/We’re in love and it feels so right” sings the sunny Hazard. But, as they reminisce about their first summer in love, some darkness again creeps in. “We hold on tight/We had the summer of our lives/But your doubts, they hold strong/And my hope it burns too long.”
Musically, Love Notes/Letter Bombs falls somewhere between their first two CDs. Thre are some pulsating synth rhythms (“Fire”), and pretty guitar Strumming (“Ivaloo”). There are lots of na-na-nas and finger claps, but there are also lots of mid-tempo songs that demonstrate a slightly more mature (and, yes, slightly more boring) Submarines. “Birds” is a nice departure for them. The syncopated melody has the feel of some of Rilo Kiley’s best cuts, and Hazard even sounds a bit like Jenny Lewis for a few lines. The song eventually retreats to simple love song cliches and simple synth hooks, but not before it offers up some nutritious bites.
This is good summertime music. It’s breezy and fun. But be careful, because there’s some protein mixed in with that cotton candy.
The Submarines play the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. on April 28…
… and The EARL in Atlanta on April 30.