Big Stir Records is extraordinarily proud to bring you the all-new album MUG by rising Chicagoland indie-pop troubadour DOLPH CHANEY. The thirteen-song collection – the followup to the 2021 indie-radio favorite THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY and his third for BSR – sees release on CD and all streaming platforms October 6 and is up for pre-order and pre-save now (orcd.co/dolphchaney-mug
). Featuring this year's hit single “Mr. Eli” and its beguiling followup “Cool In The Sunshine,” MUG continues Chaney's rewarding collaboration with ace producer NICK BERTLING, whose sonic acumen made THIS IS... such an engrossing listen. But where its predecessor saw Chaney and Bertling mining a rich back catalog of road-tested originals, MUG's fresh material presents a portrait of where Dolph Chaney is today, and one sure to thrill his growing fanbase on the global pop-rock scene.
What radiates off of MUG from its opening cascade of ringing, overdriven guitar is exactly what's made DOLPH CHANEY such a mainstay of the indie pop world so quickly: the man and his music are quite simply, irresistibly, charming. Dolph himself might bristle at that reductive description, and in fact he spends much of the opening track (the blazing college rock-fueled “Nice”) doing just that. But he does so with the rare warmth, humor and humanity that informs all of the songs here. Consider his oft-cited, eclectic list of primary influences, including Harry Nilsson, Bob Mould and Peter Gabriel, and Dolph's uncanny ability to triangulate between the most openhearted moments of each, arriving at a voice and identity that's uniquely, unmistakably his own.
Even when the guitars are churning and the vocal cords approaching maximum rawness – which is often, with Cheap Trick-meets-Guided By Voices crunch being a key tenet of Chaney and Bertling's soundscapes -- we're never far from a moment of tenderness, humor or empathy that brings us back to the center of Dolph's world. It could be the loping piano of the slyly self-deprecating “Bad Bet,” the utterly unique relationship portrait underpinning the Split Enz-like “Ice Cream Embers” or the boisterous, radio-ready power pop of “Californiagain” chronicling his raving-success 2021 West Coast solo tour. It could be something darker, like the resignation of the e-bow-driven, shoegaze-inflected “Good Luck With All That,” or more wounded, like the ultimately cathartic “Critic (The Mirror).” But it's always there, always striking, and always framed by the catchiest of melodies and sympathetic, often surprising, production touches.
On MUG, Chaney celebrates not only road life but also home life (including feline paean “Mr. Eli” and a couple of actual straightforward love songs in “Cool In The Sunshine” and “Love Around You”) and most of all his inner life. There is a late-album arc wherein Dolph tackles longstanding struggles with increasing grace, confidence, and even joy in the end, from the yearning hard rock of “Only Hope” through the jangling recovery anthem “The First Time Back” that closes the album. And while this is nothing new to his work, it’s never been this accessible and direct, and it's never been easier to hear what makes Dolph's work so special: it's unforced, unflinchingly honest, big-hearted whether that heart's nosediving or soaring, and always inviting. And that's the very definition of charm.
MUG is the culmination of four extraordinary years for Dolph Chaney. It can properly be considered the natural third part to the trilogy commenced when he burst to prominence on the global indie-pop scene with his 2020 Big Stir Records bow REBUILDING PERMIT, whose release date linked it almost inextricably with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That tragedy of timing, leavened by Chaney's extraordinary ability to rise to the challenge as a beacon of hope through creativity and community, made for an auspicious debut to an audience hungry for just what he had to offer. In truth, Dolph had been self-releasing low key, lo-fi recordings since his teen years in the late '80s, consistently delivering a unique mix of power-pop whimsy and folkie earnestness, with big, warm, sweet, funny and poignant pop songs -- ingeniously written, exuberantly performed. But at a singularly befuddling cultural moment, the songs on REBUILDING PERMIT simply clicked, and Dolph was on to bigger things.
Before the year was out, Dolph had been named Artist Of The Year by respected Internet station Woody Radio among numerous other honors that would be the envy of many an emerging artist. But the real rewards for Chaney were the embrace of a collaborative community of likeminded musicians, and above all the connection with producer/drummer/multi-hyphenate Nick Bertling, with whom he was recording his next record THIS IS DOLPH CHANEY before most of the pop scene had caught its breath. If REBUILDING had been a watershed, THIS IS... proved a genuine breakthrough, acclaimed via rave reviews in The Big Takeover, babysue and Louder Than War. Venerable Chicago radio outlets responded: there was regular airplay on WNUR-FM, WLUW-FM and CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM (where Dolph scored a Top 10 chart placement). Standout single “My Good Twin” earned a Song Of The Year honor from Pop-A-Looza and received multiple spins on SiriusXM 's Little Steven's Underground Garage via Rodney Bingenheimer and Bill Kelly.
The synergy with Bertling proved more than potent enough to repeat, and Chaney found himself brewing up the new set of tunes that are now to be served up on MUG. With the percolation complete, the new tunes are hitting the radio and Dolph is, for the first time this century, leading a full band: DOLPH CHANEY & THE PHINS have booked a solid schedule of gigs in and around Chicago to present the new songs in all their blazing glory, with an eye toward wider touring in the coming year. It's clear that MUG is not just a culmination, but a brand new jumping-off point, and if recent years have proved anything about DOLPH CHANEY, it's that he'll rise to any challenge with rare determination, aplomb, and, yes, abundant charm. Take a swig from DOLPH CHANEY's MUG today, and keep it handy for refills.