Tori Hall and Friends Collaborate as Dogs on Shady Lane: Coming-of-age meets ambient reflection in minimalist track “18”

She was already a skilled guitarist when local songstress Tori Hall caught the writing bug, and she hasn’t looked back since. After the stark realization that performing solo was fine for calmer gigs but maybe not enough for bigger venues, she reached out to her musical friends for backup. And that’s how Dogs on Shady Lane came to be back in 2017. Since then, they’ve released one EP called For Myself and more recently, a single called “18.” 

Despite a perpetually shifting band lineup, each of the band’s songs are sonically cohesive, with moments cognizant of chilled-out alter egos of Alanis Morissette, Birdy, or maybe Florence + the Machine. Airy vocals and light guitar fill the soundscape, evoking feelings of a summer day harkening back to a more peaceful time. 

Tori provided Motif with a bit of background about this latest song: 

“’18’ was recorded in an old creaky apartment on my college campus in NY last year around this time. It was released on June 5, and all proceeds made through Bandcamp continue to go toward the FANG Community Bail Fund. My good friend James Keegan (also known for his music under the name Kitchen) engineered the track completely from recording me, to mixing/mastering. The single’s a simple arrangement of acoustic and electric guitar along with vocals that are doubled. This track specifically, I played and sang every part of it. Dogs on Shady Lane is a project I created toward the end of 2017, and it has evolved in many ways. The live band/musicians on each track tend to be different/constantly changing, but each person holds a piece of the project. They are what make Dogs what it is. Shout out to Evan Weinstein for being in on this journey since the beginning.” 

This latest song is a bright, glittering masterpiece of post-adolescent reflection. My musical ear first noticed the stylistic decision to double the vocals in an extremely pleasing harmonic texture. It’s intriguing, in an almost incantatory fashion, lulling listeners into their own calm awareness. It’s primarily just a mix of acoustic and clean electric guitar, so it’s not too busy, but still feels full. Rhythmically and harmonically, everything is consonant and predictable for typical pop chord progressions, but that’s not to say it’s at all generic. This song has so many subtle layers hiding under the surface that can only be peeled back with multiple listens and a keen ear.

The poetic lyric “I’m way too old to be kind so much / to be crying so much” is one that resonates with me the most, as age often seems to bring with it frustrating new cynicisms and an odd sense of ironic helplessness in the midst of burgeoning independence. Dogs on Shady Lane portray this era of life beautifully, in a gut-wrenching ballad that is equal parts honest and artistic.

It is that cross-section between adulthood and late-adolescence that Dogs on Shady Lane handles with such care and ease. Talking about complex issues, like missing someone without fully understanding why with lyrics “I think I feel too much, I gotta give it up / I’ve gotta go back to the place I’ve known / but never been before” eloquently connects with anyone wading through odd bouts of déjà vu. 

It takes bravery to cut to the heart of the matter, and if you like ambient, thoughtful music without too many bell-and-whistle distractions from underlying emotion, look no further than Dogs on Shady Lane. It’s music written from the heart, by the kids from yesterday, bringing your inner teenager back to the surface for your very own coming-of-age montage. “18” is a great song to start with, just like real life always seems to circle back to that very same year — for better or worse.

Stream music by Dogs on Shady Lane HERE: