Have you ever watched a dragonfly in flight? I mean, like, really watched it? An oddity of natural physics, the dragonfly is able create incredible amounts of lift and propulsion, making it among the world’s fastest insects in spite of its unusual shape and unconventional flapping motion. What’s more, a dragonfly is uncommonly agile, able to completely change course in an instant and accelerate from a hovering standstill in the blink of an eye. Among the oldest insect species on Earth, they are a marvel of natural science.
Burlington-based trio Dragonfly Physics reveal parallels with their namesake bug on their debut full-length, You Are the Target. While perhaps not as profoundly impressive on an evolutionary scale, the band displays a similar knack for unpredictable flights of fancy, bouncing between genres and styles with precision and dexterity.
The album opens on “Broken Bottles.” Lead songwriter Dev Jana, a recent transplant from Phoenix, Ariz., lays bare the first of an unwieldy assortment of formative influences. Here he serves up an acoustic-driven take on grunge, echoing shades of Soundgarden in their rare quiet moments. Jana is no Chris Cornell, but the song’s general aesthetic recalls the frayed-flannel infusion from the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. Beneath Jana’s apathetic angst, bassist Jon McCartan (Events Are Objects) lays down a subtle groove that presages the funkier intentions on the following song, “No Reasoning.”
Though a stylistic departure from the intro cut, this jammy, acoustic-pop number doesn’t feel out of place. Reminiscent of Reid Genauer-era Strangefolk, it derives from a similar musical epoch as its grungy lead-in. Moreover, the smooth transition between idioms, here and throughout the recording, speaks to the band’s overall polish and professionalism. Jana, McCartan and drummer Joe Chapman — also from Events Are Objects — don’t quite transcend their varied influences. But they manage to corral elements of grunge, rock, funk and jam into a pleasant and surprisingly cohesive collection of tunes.
As a vocalist, Jana is unspectacular but solid. He is clearly a capable tunesmith with sturdy pop sensibilities and an apparent reverence for rock history. But he occasionally suffers lapses in pitch — his generally laid-back delivery can slip from relaxed to lackadaisical. Slackerly cool is fine, especially given Jana’s stylistic touchstones. But intonation should be nonnegotiable.
Pitchiness aside, You Are the Target is a fine debut. While some may consider Jana’s affinity for grunge and acoustic jam a touch dated, Dragonfly Physics should find a willing audience among those who fondly remember the early and mid-1990s.
Dragonfly Physics play the Burgundy Thursday series at Parima in Burlington this Thursday, April 7. You Are the Target hits shelves on Monday, April 11.