With his second album Cantarell, Secret Dakota Ring mastermind Andy Ross steers his project towards beautifully realized stylistic extremes of pop. Each track reveals a bevy of musical surprises. From the multi-layered summer-of-love psychedelia of “Losing Eyeballs” to the stark strings-only arrangement of “They Got The Wrong Guy” to the Hitsville USA pep of “The Fade to Black,” SDR have crafted a uniquely detailed and completely individual half-hour of ultra-catchy and unpretentious pop music out October 28 on Serious Business / No Office Records.
Ross wrote Cantarell in tour buses and hotel rooms as he toured the world as OK Go’s guitarist. Every time he found himself in New York City, he’d head to work at Serious Business, the recording studio and record label he co-founded in 2004 with longtime pal, SDR drummer and co-producer Harrison. The sessions began as fun and informal, but as the months progressed, the songs started to pile up.
It had been more than three years since SDR released its debut, Do Not Leave Baggage All The Way, a record that sold out of its first and only pressing thanks to strong word-of-mouth and with virtually no promotional effort or live support, and Ross and Harrison felt it was time to release this new collection of songs.
With Ross living in LA and constantly touring and the nexus of Serious Business remaining in NYC, the process developed as a bi-coastal, FTP-assisted, postal-service-indebted effort. Along the way, they enlisted the prodigious talents of producer/multi-instrumentalists Josh Kaufman (Rocketship Park, Caithlin DeMarrais) and Assaf Spector (Penniless Wilds) to help separately on a few tunes.
"Ross's second album... is the kind of intentionally fragile thing that isn't trying to be anything else -- it's a vision of rock & roll that begins with the Left Banke and the late Zombies, with a heavy dollop of Sean O'Hagan's string arrangements for the High Llamas and elsewhere." -
""...Ross combines jangling guitars, hip-shaking tambourines, and strings to create a lush pop landscape. From the radio-ready stomper 'Fade to Black' to the Fruit Bats-esque reverb of 'I Don't Wanna Know About My City' Ross's side project is his best-kept secret."
"Nine songs full of sweet pop flavor, Cantarell presents the soft sounds of classical musicianship on such songs as “They Got the Wrong Guy,” but combines that with tinkling, catchy sunshine pop on songs like “The Fade to Black.” ... “Losing Eyeballs” has that same signature style of Secret Dakota Ring, much like the Turtles or some of the other wacky pop bands of the ‘60s. The interesting edge to SDR’s music also brings to mind the more left-of-center sound of the garage bands of the past such as the Standells or Question Mark and the Mysterians. “I Blew Myself Up Over You” even has a little of that early, mod-era Beatles to it. ... Catchy, light and fun, Secret Dakota Ring leave the seriousness of rock ‘n’ roll at the door and invite in a reminder of the roots of pop music. Silly and entertaining, the well-crafted "Cantarell" leaves the listener in a good mood when it comes to an end but not empty inside either." -
Metro Spirit, Augusta GA
"one of 2008's 12 best records ...
The side project of OK Go's Andy Ross yields a satisfying and personal pop record that you'll be singing along to in no time. If you liked Teenage Fanclub's more pop-based material, you'll love Cantarell." Indieville
"While most of the disc features straightforward, '60s-and '70s-pop-inspired melodies, there are some change-ups. 'They Got The Wrong Guy' features a Billy Corgan (circa Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness) vocal over a string arrangement; 'The Fade To Black' leans heavier to the indie-rock side with handclaps and glockenspiel; and 'Sell Us A Spaceship' is an ambient , layered slow-burner." - Alternative Press.
"Another gem from the label that brought us Higgins, Secret Dakota Ring is a project from OK GO guitarist Andy Ross and is a striking example of how freeing these kinds of projects are for major label artists --- and whose enjoyment exceed their main band`s releases. ... Echoes of early McCartney and Emmit Rhodes ... EXTREMELY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!" Not Lame Recordings
"When a band adds strings to their sound, it usually results in
something stately or sorrowful, but Andy Ross's Secret Dakota Ring keeps things light as the string section saws away. In that sense, he recalls Kanye
West and Wax Tailor in the live
context, since both prove that
strings don't have to suck the
air out of the room—in fact,
they'd suffer without 'em. Though only two songs take advantage of that fabulous
string section, Ross insures that they're used well. If the
other tracks are less notable, they still get the job done." - AndMoreAgain
"How Wes Anderson picks the sounds for his films is beyond me. But if he’s reading, he may want to lend an ear to Secret Dakota Ring, a side project driven by OK Go guitarist Andy Ross. Cantarell, SDR’s second full-length aligns itself with Anderson’s films in that it refuses to be classified into a predetermined genre." Glide Magazine
"I love Andy Ross' solo project Secret Dakota Ring. Love, love, love... Meanwhile, lead single "The Fade To Black," has finally been unveiled. I heard this song for the first time several months ago and it blew my mind. Really. It did. And now it's gone and lodged itself in my head and will not give up. It's a brilliant powerpop song that's peppy but not overly-so, joyful and joyous and loaded with tambourine and handclaps, but is never twee or saccharine. Pop songs like that, that make you want to dance but don't make you scrunch your nose at the silly lyrics that just don't work, can be a little hard to come by." - That One Pop Gem
"Bursting with pop music pomp, the latest nine-track endeavor by Secret Dakota Ring finds mainman, Andy Ross [OK Go guitarist] and friends, dabbling in giddy 60’s rock motifs complete with Burt Bacharach-like compositions and instrumentations, rich vocal harmonies, well-placed string arrangements, and delicate melodies."
Cantarell is a lighthearted affair that wouldn’t sound out of place coming through the speakers of an upscale boutique’s soundsystem, as cuts like “I Blew Myself Up Over You” and the cosmic “Sell Us A Spaceship” merge The Beatles, the quieter material of Smashing Pumpkins, and Big Star to comprise a bevy of naturally sweet pop music treats — easily digested and memorable long after the last organ note from the slightly melancholic shuffle of “Still Awake” is played."
- Mike SOS - Gears of Rock
"You can always count me in for a solid pop album, and Secret Dakota Ring, the solo project of OK Go's Andy Ross, delivers the goods. Cantarell is an infectious and exciting record, providing novelty with a variety of different sounds and song structures, but keeping things uniformly melodic throughout. The latest release out of the exciting Serious Business label, this also happens to be the best I've heard from them - pretty good news considering Andy Ross co-runs the imprint.
Cantarell sees Ross thread together nine very eclectic pop songs into one cohesive whole. On this disc, we get a real jumble of sounds: strings-augmented orchestral pop on "They Got the Wrong Guy," Man-Made era Teenage Fanclub cloning on "I Blew Myself Up Over You," and My Bloody Valentine-esque shoegaze on "Sell Us a Spaceship." Despite the songs' impressive variety, however, Cantarell is a remarkably together album - it has its own distinct and recognizable sound, which bodes well for repeated listens. Indeed, this album begs you to come back again, with an abundance of pop gems eager to hook you.
Enthralling "The Fade To Black" is the album highlight: a boppy rhythm is combined with piano and strings to create an insanely infectious pop song in the vein of The Meligrove Band. Also especially impressive are lush "Red Light" and wistful "Still Awake." The sore spots, meanwhile, are virtually non-existent on Cantarell. Although some songs aren't as memorable as others (especially the flat but brief "Elephants"), nothing here is disappointing in a general sense. Instead it seems as if Secret Dakota Ring's Andy Ross has created an absolute delight of a pop album; if intrepid OK Go fans are disappointed by the dissimilarity between this and "Here It Goes Again," they'll no doubt be won over by an otherwise great record. " - 87% Indieville
"The artist of the week is Secret Dakota Ring! Secret Dakota Ring is OK GO's guitarist, Andy Ross. Even though this project took a backseat to the more famed OK GO, Secret Dakota Ring is a well-kept secret and will surprise you with every track. From psychedelic experimentation to power pop hits, this second Secret Dakota Ring album, Cantarell, is balanced with unique details and catchy choruses. Each track reveals a pack of musical surprises. Cantarell is a crafted, distinctive detailed and completely individual half-hour of unpretentious pop." VIC Radio
"smart, irresistible pop music...Take Los Angeles based duo, Secret Dakota Ring and their lead single, “The Fade to Black.” Shit puts a smile on your face, makes you think of sunnier days, and helps you to realize how much potential strings and hand claps hold in any given track." Moving In Stereo
"But anyway. Know how there are times - days, weeks, months, whatever - when you need a beat to keep going? How you're having such a shitty time that you need the strong, consistent backbeat to fuel you so you do what needs to get done? That's how I feel about "The Fade to Black". The past month or so has been kind of stupid, and I've been listening to a lot of music like this. That beat! It's likely to save my Friday." Music For Robots
"Cantarell is Ross's second record under the moniker Secret Dakota Ring and it shows off his knack for writing and performing multi-layered indie pop that is catchy and softly engaging. Cantarell may never get the exposure of an OK Go but it won't be because of quality as it is a perfect slice of indie rock that includes horns, feverish string arrangements and enough handclap moments to keep you coming back for more!"
-Natalie Colibri - Fire Drills
"Cantarell is brimming with big pop songs that are lushly instrumented without feeling too baroque or chamber-poppy. One of our favorite tracks from Cantarell is “The Fade to Black,” whose cheerful instrumentation is helping keep us warm and summery as winter rears its icy head." The Hood: Neighborhoodies Blog
"4/5 stars. Cantarell is a playful exercise. The airy bounce of "I Don't Wanna Know About My City" gets lost like the sideways stomp of "Losing Eyeballs," while the melodramatic opener "They Got the Wrong Guy" is a strings-only experiment that skews weird and wrong. Ross sounds like a shoegazer who wants to spend too much time with the Beach Boys, but his guitars hang in the background, buttressing saccharine swaths like "Red Light" and "I Blew Myself Up Over You," and louder nuggets such as "Sell Us a Spaceship." And when he goes schoolboy on "The Fade to Black" and "I Blew Myself Up Over Losing You," it's textbook, but still works."
-Scott Thill, MetroMix, Louisville
It seems like there's nothing Andy Ross cannot do. Not only is he an amazing guitarist, witty lyricist, clear toned singer, Serious Business Records co-founder, and a member of 2007 Grammy winning band Ok Go, he is also the mastermind behind indie-pop sensation Secret Dakota Ring. Secret Dakota Ring's second album, "Cantarell," takes the brilliance and energy of indie-pop and pushes it to its limits.
The album opens with "They Got the Wrong Guy" which features a beautiful string arrangement. Afterwards, it jumps into "The Fade to Black," a fine specimen of peppy pop and one of my favorite songs on the album. With lyrics like "I pinned a picture of you on the wall to recall the loss that came with my choice/ But I stuck to my script even on the empty stage/In the silence I heard your voice/ Calling me back from the fade to black," it is no wonder that this was the first released single, and that its adorable music video has over 18,000 views on YouTube.
After the beautiful string ending of "The Fade to Black," the album quickly transitions into the up-tempo song, "Losing Eyeballs." From there, the album segues into "I Blew Myself Up Over You," another one of my favorites, with lyrics such as "It wasn't fair the way you looked/ Tossed your hair and sunk your hook," delivered with Ross's clear voice backed by a steady beat and catchy melody.
Although the album transitions into a more serious, less sing-song mood with "I Don't Wanna Know About My City," the album's power and brilliance continues shining through soft-but-powerful "Sell Us a Spaceship," upbeat ballad "Red Light," and simple but sweet "Elephants." The album closes wonderfully with "Still Awake" which features a myriad of instruments, scintillating lyrics, and delightful vocals. This last track will surely remind Secret Dakota Ring fans of the power pop featured in the first album, "Do Not Leave Baggage All the Way."
However, people expecting an album identical to "Do Not Leave Baggage All the Way" (2004) will not find what they are expecting. Although some similarities are clear, the tone of the album is much more subdued than the high energy first album. This is not necessarily bad, but may be different than what is expected.
The album's clear strengths are the beautiful lyrics and the mellifluous melodies. The collaboration with Travis Harrison, Serious Business Records cofounder, as well as many other talented artists who provided everything from strings to vocals, was wonderfully executed to create a unique sound on "Cantarell." Carla Javier, Knox News
"His use of whimsical string arrangements and horns remind me of The High Llamas. Secret Dakota Ring's debut, "Do Not Leave Baggage All The Way" was released in 2004 before he joined Ok Go, so the songs on "Canatrell" had time to stew and marinate into the pop confections they are now. Andy mixes mellow psychedelics, classic instrumentation, hand-claps, and layers of ultra-catchy melodies with his sweet unasuming voice, which reminds me of Sean Lennon.
Without gimmicky videos or radio airplay but by old fashioned word of mouth and blog love, Secret Dakota Ring sold out of their first release. And with songs as strong as "The Fade To Black", a Motown-like pop gem with fancy orchestration and saccharine-sweet harmonies, look for Secret Dakota Ring to repeat that feat once again. Get your copy of "Cantarell" before they are gone!" Atlas and the Anchor