Long Live the Legendary: Dirty Heads Add to Their Legacy with ‘Midnight Control’

“Well all hail and long live the legendary
We will prevail
And make old laws imaginary
It’s our time to shine light
Upon the darkest souls
I follow those who search for more than just a common role.”

-Dirty Heads, “Indigo”

Anyone who has followed Dirty Heads for a while know that this is a band unafraid of defying convention. The Huntington Beach, California natives — who gradually caught fire with their 2008 debut, Any Port in a Storm — have shown remarkable versatility over a career that spans nearly 20 years of exploration through reggae, hip hop, rock, roots, and all points in between.

It makes sense, then, that the band’s latest album, Midnight Control, features the band’s most seamless experimentation to date. True to the lyrics referenced above, they unapologetically continue to push the envelope in the modern music landscape.

Certainly, there are some of the pop-reggae earworms that remind us of the first time we heard “Lay Me Down.” Lead single “Life’s Been Good” (which samples the legendary Joe Walsh) is a fun bop, while “Make Me” is a joyful, romantic romp akin to the equally lighthearted “Under the Water,” from the band’s self-titled 2016 album. Plunging us further into alt-pop territory — and the throes of passion — is the title track “Midnight Control,” a lush, neon-glowing slow jam about an intoxicating attraction that, despite our protagonist’s better judgment, presents itself as irresistible.

Dig even deeper, and you’ll find hip hop-infused empowerment anthems. “Indigo” is a standout track that speaks to the band’s philosophy of living and creating outside the box, while “Heavy Water” (ft. Common Kings) provides perspective on the volatile nature of life, and the ways our mettle is tested by the unexpected. Speaking of hip hop chops, tandem vocalists Jared Watson and Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell flex their muscles and do battle on opening track “Island Glow,” a fun, nautical tale about dueling pirates in a deadly dispute over buried treasure.

And, to pick up where 2019’s Super Moon left off, Midnight Control has plenty of rootsy, reflective moments that give us a greater appreciation for life’s journey. For one thing, it’s impossible not to smile upon encountering the sunny jazz chords and wholesome imagery of “Little Things,” which will give even the most hardened souls a chance to pause, reflect, and appreciate the nuances of daily life.

Later, the album closes with two stunningly beautiful and poignant tracks. “Shade,” through its gentle guitar picking and ethereal ambiance, reminds us that all storms pass, and that the sun shines even after the most challenging of journeys. Then, “Live Your Life” closes the record by offering perspective on the finite nature of our human experience. Through gorgeous harmonies and one particularly adventurous verse from Watson, “Live Your Life” reminds us that we have no way of knowing when our time will end, so we might as well color outside the lines while we’re here.

Ultimately, Midnight Control is an adventure as memorable and emotionally stirring as a trip to the fabled “El Dorado.” There’s a chance that you won’t know what hit you while you’re there, but you will almost certainly leave a changed person. Embark upon your voyage below!

Track listing
Island Glow
Heavy Water (ft. Common Kings)
Life’s Been Good
Make Me
Midnight Control
Little Things
El Dorado
Live Your Life

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