Things take an odd turn when Baltimore’s purported “only openly gay rapper,” DDm touts his luxurious Boss style from the seat of an Escalade on “Cadillac,” as a Nintendo space-ship explosion crunches about its bridge, but the general motive is clear on this one-off project from fellow “Charm City” scene heavyweights, Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak) and John Ehrens (White Life): “reclaiming pop music; placing it squarely in the hands of, I dunno, say a couple of regular nerds from Baltimore,” so says Wasner in a press release.
Why the two chose the name ‘Dungeonesse‘ is a mystery. Letter-for-letter it means nothing. Could be an Alaskan crab metaphor? A reference to an England headland? The world may never know. Though we’re going to tie it to the feminization of ‘dungeon’ for kicks, which’d fit right in with its 10-song, 35-minute stretch of Mariah Carey throwback, guitar-less pop. Particularly the sparkling, ides of the 90s-era opener “Shucks,” and its sedating twirl of a young love chorus in the throws of naiveté: [LISTEN]
I know it doesn’t look like much
But it’s love
And I know that it’s good enough
As much as Wasner and Ehrens muscles are not use to the hip-popping slides of a bygone era – at least, construction-wise; who knows, they may be dancefloor heroes – and aside from misstep “Cadillac,” this project is an imperfectly perfect peach, that shows a bit of mold at the end. Love is very much like a dungeon, which Wasner doesn’t fully reveal until closer “Soon,” waning on its bubbly chillwave coattails, “you can’t erase the pain.”
Before this, you’re taken for a sweet-sixteen ride stroked with tinges of Washed Out, Ace of Base and Alliyah, as Wasner waxes on about early swooning euphoria, from the shoulder-pad pop of “Private Party” to the hazy, seductive 3 a.m. dreams of “Wake Me Up,” pining, cooing, chasing a fleeting love. “I’m a prisoner of your past,” Wasner even teases on the claustrophobic blip-bloopery of “Anywhere You Are.”
Do these sentiments make for a timeless ride? Not really. But how much do you remember some of your crushes that turned sour? And wouldn’t you rather just tear up a dance floor to the bright moments?
Told you it’s alright, and I told you that I’m over it
And if I didn’t lie I would leave without knowing it
I’d better stay tonight, I can feel it taking over me