Campdogzz Carve Out Atmospheric Space and Thread Rustic Folk-Rock With Indie-Pop Flavors
By Peter Margasak
I’ll be honest that the name Campdogzz—which conjures some third-rate hip-hop crew from the end days of No Limit Records or an indie band that makes songs for toddlers—left me without interest in the group’s music for a long while, but I’m glad I ignored that and checked out the brand-new second album, In Rounds (15 Passenger). There’s something about the raspy tone and breathy catch in the singing of Jess Price that’s hard to resist, especially when her dusky melodies split the difference between humid folk and crisply played indie-rock grooves. The Oklahoma native originally moved to Chicago to make a documentary about touring indie-rock bands; she met guitarist and second vocalist Mike Russell when she was working on her film and following his old band Suns around the U.S. They became friendly, and she eventually played him some of her own demos, which led them to form Campdogzz in 2014. The band’s song “The Well,” from their self-produced 2016 debut, Riders in the Hills of Dying Heaven, was featured prominently in the Joe Swanberg-directed, Chicago-based TV show Easy, and though the appealing core of the band’s sound had congealed on that record, the new one (which they also self-produced) marks a big progression. There are three iterations of a brief, janky instrumental called “Bobbing on the Plains,” which establishes the haunting mood of the record, but Price’s aching, plaintive cries, surrounded by a rich lattice of acoustic and electronic beats, woozy steel-guitar washes, and occasional strings telegraph its real emotions. The lyrics are a bit too insular for my taste, chockablock with elliptical images as Price essays various sorts of strained relationships, but the sound of the band and its melodic grace say more than words could ever express.