In the six years since Jimmy Tamborello last released an album (Life Is Full Of Possibilities) under the name Dntel, he's been busy to say the least. His (at the time) little side project Postal Service released an album called Give Up and over a short period of time not only surpassed his acclaimed work as Dntel, but became the second biggest-selling release on the Sub Pop label ever (next to Nirvana's Bleach). He also released an album of electronic pop under the name James Figurine and plays in another band called Figurine that has sparsely released things over the course of the past several years.
Because of these other releases under different names, it's become harder and harder to really tell much of a difference between one project and the other for Tamborello. It used to be that his Dntel project found him treating vocals as just another sound, often obliterating them into pure texture, and while that still happens in places on Dumb Luck, it's also much more poppy than anything he's done under that name. He again teams up with a slew of different vocalists for the release, and the results are more mixed than in the past, making for a somewhat jumpy album that again largely ties back to just how much he treats the vocals themselves.
It starts on a strong foot, with the fuzzed-out title track that finds Tamborello himself singing some fragile vocals that seem to be poking fun of his own success. Like the best of the tracks on his last album, organic instrumentation (in this case, acoustic guitars) and vocals creep through in places while being blown out in others as warm rushes of electronics and subtle beat work drive the song forward. "To A Fault" features Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear on vocals and again they're often turned into swirling shades of colored sound as the song builds slowly before shifting into something bouncy and playful in the second half, with snappy snares and tweaked analogue synths.
After a collaboration with Markus Acker and Valerie Trebeljahr of Lali Puna (that sounds like an early-period track by the group), the first real stumble of the release comes with "Roll On." It's hear that Tamborello teams up with Postal Service pal Jenny Lewis, and while there's nothing wrong with her vocals themselves, the country-inflected track falls into a fairly straightforward lope and is one of the more bland (and out-of-place) track on the release. The same goes for "Breakfast In Bed," where Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes provides lead vocal work, and again they creep through almost unaffected while musically things again plod along again with little dynamics.
Fortunately, there are some other great collaborations on the release, and both "The Distance" (featuring vocals from Arthur And Yu) and the closer of "Dreams" (featuring Mystic Chords Of Memory) shine with the amazing textural, melodic, and rhythmic work that made Life Is Full Of Possibilities such a treat. The latter is a particular treat, drifting into seriously dreamy territory with quiet horns and wafting clouds of noise to close out the release. Floating somewhere in between his previous release under the Dntel name and The Postal Service, Dumb Luck will likely slightly frustrate fans of each a little bit, but in other places provide some nice payoff.