Review: “Light Flashes” by Dubbest Draws Powerful Imagery

“I wonder ‘am I dreaming?’/ Right now, I feel like I am far from my body.”

In an excellent case of the meta-narrative, Dubbest captures the essence of their newest full length album Light Flashes in one lyric. The third release by the Boston-based quintet carries on its tradition of surrealist lyrics wrapped inside some lethargic, yet danceable music.

Dubbest is special in that they have this tendency to take the important elements of dub and re-create it into some of the chillest songwriting a reggae fan can vibe to. Let’s face it: dub can seem pretty formulaic from time to time. The crawling rhythms and heavily delayed guitar can make it hard for listeners to distinguish one band from another.

But ultimately what projects Dubbest beyond the sea of the generic genre sound is their unique, memorable melodies. Whether it’s the opening vocal melody on the first single “Spend The Day,” or the impulsive singalong chorus to “Weeping Heart,” or pretty much every element of the song “Escape Route,” it wouldn’t be hard to imagine even a single member of their audiences vocalizing along with their incomparable melodies.

Watch the Music Video for “Spend the Day” by Dubbest

Throughout the album, the band’s performance style is very contained, almost as though they tried to record without waking the next door neighbors. The muted drums, gentle guitar riffs and soothing vocals that dominate the majority of the album create a sort of dreamscape that’ll have audience members in an immediate trance. Simply put, the gunfire snare intro on the band’s first track “One Thing” is, without a doubt, the most aggressive thing you’ll hear on the record.

The band uses it to their advantage in a way other than to create a unique sound as well; it is a tool used to make the alluding complexities of their songs deceptively simple. The band plays their songs with such mastery, it’s almost sounds as if they walked into practice one day with twelve songs and recorded the whole thing in one take.

Dubbest - Light Flashes Cover ArtWhat makes the band so complex, however, is their ability to expand beyond recording your average dub/reggae tune, and instead creating a collage of sound that immediately evokes mental imagery. The boys create a new world with every song, using guitar tones that sound as though they just came back from a stay at the Virgin Islands, noir-style horns that slur from song to song, thumping bass grooves and keyboard melodies sprinkled all over the album.

The thing the really stands out, however, is Ryan Thaxter’s vocals and his picturesque lyrics. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the word poetry to describe the band’s words, not because of their acceptable (at best) rhymes, but the way that they pull the listener in with surrealistic metaphors and psychedelic imagery. Though his flawless vocals carry just as much weight in the verses of the songs, it takes a lot for the listener to pull itself away from the choruses, which will have her singing along before you’re done with your first listen.

Dubbest is currently gearing up for a west coast tour that will go on for a little more than one month, which seems fitting considering the bonfire-on-the-beach vibe of Light Flashes. But this is a choice album to represent the east coast reggae scene because it’s a reminder that while we’re only on the sands for three months out of the year, the power of imagination can go a long way when you’re listening to the right music.

“Light Flashses” will be available July 7 via iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon, and the Band’s website. Dubbest performs tonight, June 12 at Bull McCabe’s in Somerville. Cover is $5 and music starts at 10pm. Join the Facebook event. Head to the band’s website for more tour dates.