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First Play: The Pack A.D., Dollhouse

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Andrea Gin

“I feel the water/ rising up/ I see the city/ swallowed up.” So begins “Woke Up Weird,” a dark anthem that serves as the jumping off point for Dollhouse, the new full-length album from Vancouver’s the Pack A.D.

The garage-rock duo, made up of singer/guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller, recorded this album last summer in their hometown during one of the worst wildfire seasons in the city’s history. The gloomy, smoke-filled atmosphere, combined with the pair’s anxiety over what they see to be the toxic state of world politics, sets the scene for many of the songs on Dollhouse, including its ominous-sounding opener.

“Everything just feels like it’s sped up so rapidly,” Miller says via press release, “and every day, there’s some new shitty thing that’s making it feel apocalyptic.”

Black adds that, while the songs on Dollhouse come off as bleak, the pair initially approached this album with an optimistic outlook. Over the course of recording the nine tracks though, they were forced to grapple with issues both personal and political, using the concept of a dollhouse to describe their inner struggles.

"[The dollhouse is] both a reminder of the closed ecosystem we all inhabit, the grander scale, and the minuscule confines of our individual minds, neither of which we can escape from,” she explains. “The anxiety of existing is a throughline in the lyrics on Dollhouse.”

While the album may be a more direct effort at communication than we’re used to from the band, musically it also exposes a softer side of them. The tender, bluesy “Because of You” and the delicate, melancholy “I Tried” show the band writing songs about seeking out personal connection, and trying rather than giving up.

In the end, it’s empathy that keeps Dollhouse from being entirely doom and gloom. It’s a fine, but important, distinction.

“For me, it’s less depressing and more commiserating," Miller concludes.

Dollhouse will be out on Oct. 13 via Cadence Music. You can pre-order it here. The duo will be touring North America this fall. Find tour dates here.