There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
On the titular opening track of Dumb Luck, Dntel leader Jimmy Tamborello offers a disclaimer about his insecurities: “Just don’t forget that it’s dumb luck that got you here,” he sings, “and all the talent that you had was just in dreams.” An electronic musician who seems to make a career out of side projects, Tamborello took five years to finish Dumb Luck, the third Dntel disc and the second to feature guest singers. Perhaps thinking there’s safety, or at least confidence, in numbers, Tamborello approached the album as he did for the Postal Service, his collaboration with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard: Tamborello composes an electronic base for a song, and an indie rocker writes or co-writes the lyrics. It’s occasionally an iffy scheme. On “To a Fault,” Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear provides barely decipherable words that become just another layer of noise in an ambient drone. Some artists, however, overpower Tamborello’s sound. Conor Oberst delivers the pretty “Breakfast in Bed” in his typical warbly fashion as he tells a bittersweet tale of love: “I hope you always find someone to take you home/To put you into bed, kiss your cheek, and check your pulse.” While Tamborello contributes to the mood with some pinging beats and synth chirps, it’s a Bright Eyes song. On “Roll On,” Tamborello and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis finally get the balance right. Lewis provides the wholesome voice and lyrics (“It’s just no fun when you hate the person that you’ve become/Bitter, lonely, and isolated/Before I know it, I’ll be an old maid”); Tamborello gives dimension and edge, his thick infusion of cowbell-like knocks and fuzz repeatedly building to near-intolerable intensity before disappearing to make room for crisp guitar strumming. By the end of Dumb Luck, Tamborello has again and again proved to be a master of such electronic confections, but his self-esteem still feels dodgy. On the last song, “Dreams,” featuring Mystic Chords of Memory, Tamborello undercuts the last minute and a half of the happy, sleepy song with spurts of ominous-sounding organ, as if he couldn’t bear to leave something so beautiful unmarred. It feels like a fit of self-doubt, but luckily Tamborello has a lot of friends to get him through his worst moments.