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Arts and Entertainment

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Post by Willy Blackmore, Special to LAist

If you’re planning on catching Conor Oberst and Mystic Valley Band at the Glass House in Pomona on Wednesday, we suggest you plan on arriving early. Long Beach’s Deep Sea Diver will be the opening act and even if you don’t realize it yet, you don’t want to miss it. Fresh off the release of her debut EP “New Caves” and a tour of Japan, Deep Sea Diver, neé Jessica Dobson, is sure to deliver her a highly energetic performance of own brand of guitar-driven indie rock that has garnered her comparisons to PJ Harvey and Aimee Mann alike.

But wait—a Japanese tour coinciding with a debut EP? How could this be? No, it is not just a Tom Waits-esque big in Japan moment, but yet another part of the growing mythology that has been surrounding Dobson’s nascent musical career for the past few years. As the guitarist for Beck’s touring band, Dobson may be more familiar than you realize, having performed at the Hollywood Bowl and on David Letterman in 2008, not to mention those recent dates in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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With more than enough stage presence to confidently rock Beck’s many famous guitar lines for crowds measuring in the thousands—not to mention having a few false starts and second chances under her belt (including the self-imposed shelving of her Atlantic Records debut album—it just wasn’t good enough)—and recording sessions with indie mega producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Mudhoney, The Shins, etc.), Dobson certainly has the resume to warrant OC Weekly’s claim that she the best thing you’ve never heard.

The problem with such a resume is, of course, one of comparisons. Does Deep Sea Diver have the hip hop influenced, sample laden sound of Beck? Or is it more of a nod to the soft, care-free pop styles of The Shins? Matt Wignall, producer of both Cold War Kids albums, had a hand in “New Caves” as well. Is Dobson following in the steps of her fellow Long Beach-based band, working to create an heir to g-funk, a new official sound of the LBC? The answers are no, no and no.

Deep Sea Diver may take certain cues from her peers and collaborators, but she has a sound that is all her own. An accomplished guitarist, her picking and strumming features at the forefront of majority of the tracks, often dosed with ample reverb and maybe a bit of fuzz—recalling more the guitars of surf rock than shoegaze, but with a modern twist. From the straight-up rock riffs of the opening title track to the free-ranging and diverse melodies of Wearing Thin, a beautiful, stripped-down track of only vocals and guitar, Dobson shows impressive musical chops over the course of the EP’s six tracks. Guitars make way for the Fender Rhodes on Confidence, the analog sound of the keyboard carrying the song, a simple high hat and rim shot rhythm section giving a jazz-like ting.

The Rhodes is a perfect foil for Dobson’s smooth, slightly bluesy vocals—reminiscent of Chan Marshall, in a way—as she sings “I wish I had/your confidence” on the hook. As she finally embarks on her solo career with this debut release, already a veteran of international tours and having worked with top producers, it is hard to imagine whose confidence she could be hoping for, when “New Caves” seems to prove that she has plenty to spare herself.

Photo courtesy of Deep Sea Diver

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