Reviews

Neva Dinova: The Hate Yourself Change

Author: Brian Howe
02/06/2005 | Pitchfork | pitchfork.com | Album Review
The last thing we heard from the long running but little recognized Omaha band Neva Dinova was 2004's One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels, a split EP with Bright Eyes. It seemed like Oberst was assisting a band he admired, one that would earn exposure and credibility by sharing an EP with him. Neva Dinova actually outshone Bright Eyes on the EP, as Jake Bellows's weary voice oozed over sepia-toned Americana that was clear and concise if occasionally a bit murky. Now that the group has become known outside of Omaha, here's its proper coming-out party, The Hate Yourself Change.
Neva Dinova has crafted a dreamy, slow-burning lament that is consistently pleasant, occasionally exceptional, and-- in inspired spurts-- aimed squarely at the FM band. This newfound directness from a band that used to play triple-guitar slowcore jumps out from the first track, "Hat O'er Eyes", which is comprised solely of treacly vocals and a folksy acoustic strum. Bellows has a rich, aching voice, like a rough-around-the-edges Jeff Buckley, yet refrains from the affected drama of Omaha heavy hitters like Oberst or Son, Ambulance's Joe Knapp. The sultry "Ahh" blossoms with angelic harmonies as Bellows switches between winsome emoting and a deadpan drawl; with its delicate phrasing, subtle shimmer, and steady increase in intensity, it wouldn't be out of place next to Coldplay. One of the few upbeat songs on the album, "She Can't Change", follows suit-- it's a steady build around a pristinely simple and poppy guitar figure.
But in the end, this same consistency may be what keeps Neva Dinova breaking out of Omaha. Too many of their songs are agreeable but interchangeable. "The Champion", Can't Wait to See You", "Blackest Heart", "Cold Calls", and "On/Off" have little to recommend one over the others: They're all depressive ballads that build to radiant peaks, tinged with gentle psychedelia, recessed harmonies, and Bellows's able but unvaried vocal presence. But there are bright flashes of deviation on The Hate Yourself Change that indicate Bellows is struggling out of his perennial mode. "A Picture in Pocket", with its lean, repetitive throb and tightly reverberating guitars, sounds a lot like Franz Ferdinand, especially the fey vocal chorus. And "I've Got a Feeling", the album's closer, trades in Bellows's lovelorn aphorisms for a more caustic vocal and lyrical turn, a weary, expletive-riddled screed that mounts toward the choral refrain, "The world's a shitty place and I want to die." Barring these aberrations, The Hate Yourself Change works best as an innocuous bedtime record; including them, it's a snapshot of a band taking a tentative step toward the next echelon of recognition and accomplishment.