Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – What’s In A Name Anyway?

There’s a lot of personal bias that could turn someone off listening to any given song, much less keep them sticking around to hear a whole album. I’m not any different. I know what I like and what I don’t like. But there are times I just want to be surprised by something new. Mostly boredom drives this impulse. So when this happens, I go against my grain and devote some attention to something that I find initially off-putting, for whatever reason. Biases don’t need to be logical. The result is that I discover something genuinely enjoyable or something that bores me in ways I hadn’t thought possible. Either way, it’s an experience I wouldn’t have had if I’d flippantly brushed aside an artist or band in favor of something more predictable.

So today I listened to an album from a group that could easily set off some internalized knee-jerk reaction that just says, “This is probably just nonsense for the sake of nonsense.”

The band goes by the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Let that name sink in for a second. It’s not clever enough to be too clever for it’s own good. It’s not even a pun, really. If, like me, you’re not into NASCAR and you hate when hipsters get pretentious by picking ridiculous band names, just take a moment to consider what Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

To that end, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. makes sweet indie pop indeed. Many tracks have wonderfully layered arrangements that play on both organic and electronic elements, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is just shimmery expansive indie pop. There are some pretty twisted lyrics on this album too. When I Open My Eyes is a good example, pairing a lovely melody with lyrics that come off as deeply creepy.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is comprised of Joshua Epstein & Daniel Zott. Clearly the duo feels that it should be ok to laugh at yourself, while also challenging preconceptions. It’s apparent in their lyrics. To that end, on their website the band states they picked Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on a lark. The duo said the name is an afterthought because the music comes first and that they feel a sense of artistic freedom in not worrying about making music that has to live up to a name.

It’s A Corporate World, out now on iTunes and on the band’s webpage, is an intriguing listen. Lyrically there are many thematic ideas on this album, which are cleverly and playfully hinted at as well as impishly phrased. Themes ranges from love to expectations that arise from just living.

Listen to them on soundcloud or go see their show tonight at Opolis in Norman. And try not to dwell on the name.

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