Once a trio but now a quartet, Greg Sullo (vocals, guitar), Derek “Duck” Zimmerman (vocals, keys), Ryan Michael Kiley (vocals, bass), and Nick Brooks (drums), makeup Brooklyn indie band Dinosaur Feathers. Sullo and Zimmerman sang together in college, and developed a following in New York City after releasing a free EP on their website, and playing a slew of gigs including SXSW. Their debut album came in the form of 2010’s Fantasy Memorial, which was filled with a 50s and 60s inspired pop sound. The band, once backed by a drum machine, added drummer Nick Brooks to their lineup to enhance their sound. Their latest album, Whistle Tips, was recorded last year with Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs, WHY?, Beulah) and released in April 2012.
Like their namesake, Dinosaur Feathers is the rare band that combines equal parts lightness and an earth shaking rumble in one satisfying whole. Begun by front man Greg Sullo as a one-man recording project, the group has expanded in size and scope in the ensuing years.
The band's first full-length - 2010's Fantasy Memorial - found them toying with the same ideas as fellow New Yorkers Vampire Weekend by injecting their lovelorn pop with rhythms borrowed from Latin and African sources. But with new album Whistle Tips, Dinosaur Feathers has thrown themselves completely into the joyous bounce of pure indie pop.
As with most of the material that Dinosaur Feathers has committed to tape thus far, the key to the band's success is in the tight knit harmonies that the quartet weaves into each song. It helps add even more helium-filled drift to otherwise skittish songs such as the cutting "Pillars" and the ping pong-like swirl of "Boats".
Too, much of the depth of the band's work comes from Sullo's rich lyrical ideas. The songwriter is able to use an obvious love of language to tease out more layered ideas. Take, for example, these lines from the band's "Vendela Vida": "I've got a past and a future/You're working on your present tense/And while I examined the sutures/You were mending your fence." Or how he brings listeners back to those tense days and joyous blushes that come with your first relationship in the song "Beatcha" ("All I wanted to do was to ask you to dance/But no one here gives us much of a chance").
Sure, it's not without it's moments of island temptations ("City Living" carries a slinky reggae riddim along its wide, Cinemascope-scaled back, and the fluttering guitar line of "Untrue" calls to mind the best of African highlife). But the rest of Whistle gives new life to the guitar/bass/drums aesthetic. It's pure highway road trip bliss, begging you roll down your windows, feel the breeze in your hair, and enjoy the scenery as it flows past at 65 MPH.