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Dance 4 a Dollar EP

Dance 4 a Dollar EP artwork
  • Fool's Gold

This collaborative EP, made by Wavves’ Nathan Williams and his brother Kynan’s production duo Sweet Valley alongside electro-pop savant Amanda Warner, aka MNDR, sounds like it is coming apart at the seams throughout, but some of its threads are luxurious.

Can something be "stoner dance music"? The term sounds oxymoronic, invoking a Bonnaroovian nightmare of twirling and wiggling, but Dance 4 a Dollar—a collaborative EP between Wavves’ Nathan Williams and his brother Kynan’s production duo Sweet Valley and gear-head electro-pop savant Amanda Warner, aka MNDR—is precisely that. Sweet Valley’s rap output has always been a counterpoint to Nathan’s slacked-out rock music, but it's still decidedly too lo-fi to match the high gloss of MNDR tracks like "Fade to Black" and "Feed Me Diamonds". Yet, somehow, the three (along with producer Peter Wade) have crafted something hazy and gleaming that isn’t always fighting itself. The five-track collection sounds like it is coming apart at the seams throughout, but some of its threads are luxurious.

The EP opens with Warner cooing, "Hello, status quo" over bathwater synths and sleigh bells, almost as if she’s nodding ironically at their unconventional grouping. The track, "Like Liars", boasts the most crystalline vocals of the project—which, frankly, should be the most highlighted element here—and you can hear Nathan and Kynan trying to squeeze in too many details, many of which feel like weeded-out epiphanies that would have been removed in the sober light of day. There is evidence that Sweet Valley’s woozy production can work nicely alongside something more upbeat: Back in 2012, Kynan flipped Joanie Sommers’ patriarchy-praising "Johnny Get Angry" for Lakutis’ lackadaisical "Too Ill for the Law". The sound was fuzzy, but the vibe was hyperfocused. Dance 4 a Dollar could have used some of that precision.

This is not to say that the fill-every-cranny-with-another-bleep-bloop-or-blorp approach to the EP is always ineffective. Among the five tracks, some of the chaos works. "Tongues Like Ghosts" is what Rihanna would release if she ever has an LSD phase. The songwriting hews closer to MNDR’s work, sounding enormous and immersive despite the EP’s anarchy. The project is overall a little bit lyrically impotent—the phrase "Live fast, die young" should heed its own advice—but Warner turns heads occasionally with curious lines like "Let’s make love like liars." The powerful moments are like that, confronting you with something that makes little sense but still sounds beautiful.

Where the collection suffers is when it feels like Sweet Valley’s woozy production takes over. "Do It Everyday" is an erratic lullaby. It volleys between sparse melancholia with clip-clopping production that bolsters Warner’s voice and skittering synths which clog up the track. When Warner sings, "We don’t give a fuck/ And we know it," it’s a little too on the nose. The glitchy "HoldMeAlways MakeBelieve", meanwhile, is bogged down by too many electronic bells and whistles, which nearly mask Warner’s vocals. When yet another shooting-star synth grazes the track, it’s like learning for the first time that when you mix all the paint colors you don’t get a rainbow, you just get mud. But, perhaps, mud is where stoner dance music belongs.

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