Am I going to be able to review this record without comparing Ditches to Marked Men? Clearly not, but I made it 14 words. This debut album from Stockholm’s Ditches bears a lot of similarity to that band. Given how good that band was, I’m not sure that’s a knock against them. Besides the sonic similarities, the record was also recorded and mixed by Jeff Burke (including a couple of guest vocal cameos) too, so it’s kind of a family thing.
This self-titled debut features 11-songs of that familiar vein of garage/pop/punk. It’s crisp, clean and hyper-melodic. It’s also sugar-fueled and high adrenaline; the kind of power pop that is played so fiercely that it actually has heart. You can damn near see the blood on their fingers from playing so hard, but it’s soothing and friendly at the same time. The production fits it perfectly, capturing a crisp sound that highlights the structure but with subtle grit that keeps it authentic. The vocals are mixed evenly with the guitar, bass and drum, making the melodic flourishes shine but without overshadowing the rhythm punch.
While I’ve beat the Marked Men drum pretty hard so far, this is next generation and has its own style and flourishes. “Lights Out” is one of the standouts. While the general style is familiar, the transitions give it unique mood swings that waver up and down and occasionally to strike out at an external aggressor. Then in the very next song, “Falling,” has a more emotional pitfall that brings new layers to the record. “When It’s Over” brings a moment of melancholy sunshine, followed by “Rosy Cheeks,” which similarly merges sunny melodies and cynical lyrics. The 1960s era bass line that gives it a little more waggle, with a hint of gloomy skies coming overhead. That is Ditches: sunny on the outside, but something is brewing on the horizon.