Speakerphobe on Speakerphone
Caleb Kopta w/ Dave Helmer, Dizzy Bridges
Blue Moose Tap House — Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Odd Harmona w/ In the Attic, Dizzy Bridges
Dick’s Tap & Shake Room — Saturday, April 28 at 9 p.m.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Squeeze lately — so hearing a tune like “Variations on a Heartbeat” is a bit like visiting an old friend. It’s the kind of skillfully addictive pop tune that has you singing along by the second listen. But for Dizzy Bridges, the solo project of Iowa City musician SJ Gonzales, that isn’t enough. He backs up that second track on his recently released Speakerphobe on Speakerphone with a full album that makes you rejoice that the old friend has moved to town.
The record wears its influences on its sleeve, but they’re not all retro. Gonzales called out a variety of DIY acts when defining for me the origins of what he calls the “burgeoning neo-psych scene” in Iowa City: “artists like Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, Mild High Club,” he said, “and to an extent, St. Vincent.” But in the tight, skillful melodies you can also hear echoes of bigger-name modern pop powerhouses, like the Flaming Lips and especially the Magnetic Fields.
Gonzales certainly has the audacity of a Wayne Coyne and the savvy of a Stephin Merritt in his album construction. The variety of tracks, from the coy cynicism of “Miser” to the unabashedly boisterous “In Love with Love,” provide a pleasingly dynamic pop palette, with something for everyone’s mood while locking into a comfortingly consistent tone and style.
The way that Gonzales balances psychedelia and pop dips into the Beatles-esque at times, as with “Sonder (Interlude),” a short, trippy instrumental that invites comparisons to the eerier moments of Yellow Submarine. But he continues to drive the album towards being the soundtrack of tomorrow. Penultimate track “Nothing On,” for example, digs deep into strange and intrusive samples, blending everything together into a swirl of postmodern malaise.
Gonzales plays solo on this record, but has been building an ensemble for performing — Derek Raatz on drums, Jonah Hatten on bass, Harry Horgan on guitar. His recent (and upcoming) shows split between a solo set from him, as “opener,” and a set with the rest of the group. When the whole group gets together, he sings and plays synth in the mix.
“The album itself has a lot of moving parts that a sole guitar or piano and a vocal can’t fully accommodate,” he said. “It’s layered music, so sharing that with other artists in a live setting has been really fun.”
It’s those layers that draw it firmly into the most current pop ouvre, and make it exciting to wonder where it will go from here.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 241.