Audio Mixers: Shaun Fleming; Tim Smiley.
Recording information: Blockhouse Studios, Bloomington, IN; Dream Star Studios, Woodland Hills, CA; Emoto Studios, Santa Monica, CA; Primary Sound Studios; The Furnace Room.
Photographer: Cara Robbins.
After recording the first Diane Coffee record by himself, sometimes on his phone, in a small N.Y.C. apartment, Shaun Fleming recorded the second Diane Coffee album, Everybody's a Good Dog, in a relatively lush studio in his new hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Working with a large group of collaborators, including his Foxygen bandmates, and a larger palette of instruments that includes horns and strings, Fleming takes the intimate, loosely warped pop of My Friend Fish and blows it up into an expansive rainbow that includes elements of Motown, dub reggae, classic '60s bubblepop, '70s glam rock, and psychedelic R&B; jamming them together into a glittering ball of sound. While the horns, strings, and guitars swoop and swoon around him, Fleming's feather-light vocals command attention whether he's crooning sweetly or weaving through the mix like a drunken sailor. The mix of blown-out instruments, stuffed-to-the-gills arrangements, and Fleming's showstopping singing would be enough to make the album worth hearing to anyone who ever liked a David Bowie album from the '70s, a Flaming Lips album from the '90s, or even a Foxygen album. But the songs are what pushes it beyond merely being a bright, shiny toy that flares and burns out quickly. Fleming proves something of a whiz at crafting strutting rockers that snap and pop like nobody's business, like the showy "Mayflower," which is a weird mix of the Black Crowes and Wake Up!-era Boo Radleys, or the whip-smart, vintage synth-filled "GovT." It threatens to go over the top at times, but Fleming always pulls things back from the edge just in time with a big hook or a crafty shift in tone. He also makes sure to add some songs that scale back the crazy in favor of a more subdued approach, as on the slinky "Soon to Be, Won't to Be" or the couple of doo wop ballads that sound like a ducktailed Bowie singing with Mud, only weirder. The soul influence comes out strongest on "Everyday," an upbeat jam that Sly & the Family Stone might have cut if they lived on Sesame Street, and the duet with Ava Luna's Felicia Douglass, cannily titled "Duet," that has plenty of relaxed soul. It all makes for a fun and heady mix of sound and vision, easy to love for the surface flash while just as satisfying on a deep dive. Fleming may have lost some of the outsider charm that bubbled through the first Diane Coffee record by going big, but he went big in such a sure-handed and spectacular way, it's hard to complain too much. In fact, an album this crazy and good deserves nothing but praise and adulation. ~ Tim Sendra