Album Review: DRGN KING ‘Paragraph Nights’

joel wosk is the dragon king…

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On January 23rd, 2013, Philadelphia recording duo DRGN KING, will release their debut album Paragraph Nights on Bar/None Records. The group, which is comprised of singer/songwriter Dominic Angelella and hip-hop producer “Ritz” Reynolds, met by chance at a recording session. Angelella, a veteran performer from the Philadelphia music scene and Reynolds a seasoned producer known for his production work with groups such as Wale, Mac Miller, and the legendary Philadelphia hip-hop group, The Roots, have created an album that is both diverse in style and lush in musicality.

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The opening track “Paragraph Nights,” begins as a somber piano and vocal introduction to the album. I was immediately taken with Dominic Angelella’s voice, which is both soft and a bit gravely at the same time. Fans of the band Brand New will find striking similarities between Angelella’s voice and that of front man Jesse Lacey. However, the somber mood soon ends as the group segues into the second track of the album, “Wild Night.” “Wild Night” is a poppy synth driven number that blends atmospheric electronic elements with catchy bass hooks. This track is an early indication of the level of song craft prevalent on the rest of the album.

However, DRGN KING is not a group that limits itself to a single style or musical idiom. “Holy Ghost” has a rhythm and blues feel to it, complete with bluesy guitar and handclaps. I will go on record and say: I love well-placed handclaps. And this album has not just one, but TWO songs that feature well-placed handclaps (“Altamont Sunrise”). But I digress; the stylistic musical changes do not end there. Elements of psychedelic rock are present on tracks “The Cardy Boys” as well as on the closing track “Looking At You.” The album even gets a bit dark with the track “Barbarians” with its hushed angst and almost industrial drumbeat during the chorus. This track would not seem out of place on a later NIN album (think With Teeth).

Although Dominic Angelella provides a strong vocal performance throughout the album, the element of this group that really kept my attention was the quality of the music and production. Instrumental track “Black Gold” draws the listener’s attention to the musicianship displayed on the album. In terms of sequencing, placing this track in the back end of the album was a smart move. It’s short and to the point, but it had such an effect on me that I immediately wanted to skip back to the songs I enjoyed earlier on the album for a more in-depth listen.

Paragraph Nights is a very diverse album. It moves and changes, sometimes returning to some of the same styles at different points, while also offering the listener a taste of the group’s other musical influences. This is one of the major strengths of the group and keeps the album from getting stale or losing momentum at the halfway mark. DRGN KING, you have my respect. (well-placed handclaps)