Be it in the pastoral dorm-room folk of Our Cat Philip or the free-flowing experimental pop of Arlo & the Otter, Max Sollisch has never been afraid to deploy his quivering warble. With the solo project Dolfish, he may have found just the right venue for it.
Afternoon Records thinks so. The Minneapolis-based Warner Music Group affiliate, home to Pomegranates and John Vanderslice, will reissue Dolfish's debut EP "Your Love Is Bummin' Me Out" on 7-inch vinyl later this month. Sollisch is working on a full-length for Afternoon, too.
Of all Sollisch's projects, it's no surprise Dolfish is the one catching on. His songwriting has become exceptionally sharp and concise. Few folkies stumble into a stroke of genius like applying Jesus and Mary Chain echo-chamber jangle to country-rock ballads.
Still, Sollisch's polarizing whimper remains front and center. Dolfish works so well mainly because he uses that voice so effectively, through both his clever lyrics and the unforgettable melodies that carry them.
That was abundantly clear during a short but sweet set last Tuesday at Rumba Cafe. Like the Dolfish EP, which races through five songs in eight minutes, Sollisch's set lasted barely a blink but still left an impression.
I'm not a lyrics guy. I can listen to an album a dozen times without thinking much about its message. Dolfish doesn't accommodate such passivity. Consider a new chorus Sollisch trotted out Tuesday: "You swear at God/ But never at the children 'cause that's how you were taught/ And you watch 'Harold and Maude'/ But just for the Cat Stevens; you never follow the plot."
His imagery speaks volumes about the human condition; a string of pop-culture allusions lightens the mood. Sollisch still bears the mark of Conor Oberst, but he's long since transcended the undergrad poetry of Our Cat Philip, bolstering his rampant sensitivity with a self-aware sense of humor.
All that crystallized Tuesday in a set-concluding rendition of "Your Love Is Bummin' Me Out." I haven't been able to shake this song's defiantly fragile hook for three months. Floating through the measured cacophony of Sollisch's overdriven Silvertone, the melody was at its most haunting. I never thought I'd identify so deeply with a song about being jealous of preteens.