Hammerstein works as a carpenter as a day job, and Ticonderoga questions our preconceptions of blue collar workers, as Dash Hammerstein is quite capable of deep observations, which are then constructed into short, catchy songs, with the same care and quality with which he might construct a balcony or a mahogany chest.
Ticonderoga is smack-dab in the middle of raw and immediate lo-fi, and glossy pop, with mass mainstream appeal, if people were only to pay attention. Ticonderoga was recorded at Red Hook Studios, a warehouse in Brooklyn on the water, removed from any commercial or residential areas. It’s a suitable setting to capture Hammerstein's anachronistic sounds, which are equally removed from trends and public concerns. Most of Hammerstein's iTunes is pre-1975, heavy on Bolan and Bowie and other glam giants and it shows. Hammerstein's songs are heavy on infectious hooks and memorable melodies, like the shimmering flanged guitar on "I'm A Rockefeller, Too.” These pop sensibilities are wrapped in a plasticine sheen, like a piece of New York Dolls op-art.
Hammerstein is a drummer by trade, before he traded it all in, to focus on writing his own material. Smart move - Hammerstein is a genius for melodies and pop songwriting. Most of Ticonderoga sounds familiar, but packed full of interesting moments and details, like the lush vocal harmonies that come in halfway through the sparse opening track, "Twenty Five.” The jaunty piano chords of "(Across The Street From) The Madonna Inn" brings to mind adventurous pop music like Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson, as Hammerstein recreates the feeling of watching the line outside of some posh restaurant. From the sound of it, he doesn't really want to eat there, although he's "willing to keep an open mind.”
Dash Hammerstein wrote and played most of the music on Ticonderoga himself, with the occasional guest. Grace Hammerstein contributes glorious, close-country vocal harmonies on "Death, Taxes and MY Love for You,” which also features a tasty, twangy dobro lead from Matt Campbell, as well as the title track. These little touches make this record seem like a party, a celebration, of true, timeless songwriting.
The album art from Anamaria Morris contributes greatly to the overall finished feeling of Ticonderoga. It is clearly a labor of love, put together with great care and craft, and worthy of praise!
For those looking for pure pop escapism, look elsewhere. There's too much real talk. But for those looking to transmogrify the base material of their daily lives into pure sparkling pop gold, Ticonderoga will be your Philosopher's Stone.