Now (as I start too many sentences in these reviews), you may remember these loyal reader of mine, and valued, avid follower, but then again you might not because no one reads these reviews with the same intent as I write them. If you don’t then shame on you, and if you do, excellent we’re on the same page here. That page being this review of their debut release with inVogue Records, the I Can Tell You E.P. If you haven’t read that review and listened to that release, I suggest you do both. I’ll wait. For those who have done either, I apologise for making you wait but it’s only fair we all start on an even keel.
Now (see what I mean) that I trust everyone has caught up with everyone else, and hasn’t bypassed this section of the review for the bit where I start talking about the music, I’ll begin.
With that review I made reference to a number of things; the perfect timing of the sound of that EP with its release date of Valentine’s Day with spring round the corner, its perfect pop melodies in perfect pop songs as breezy as they were sunny but with an ability to drag the waters for an airy melancholy too. It was a positive review, for a brilliant debut. I of course also hinted at the summer coming (which is now) seeing the release of their debut album, and how it would no doubt fit perfect to a summer release.
Summer comes around. Our omnipotent Music Editor receives contact with their album attached. He sends it my way. I put it on, for a quick first through listen. I’m expecting instant and brilliant songs that sing the spirit of summer to my soul. My grubby, piss stained soul. Something’s different though. Something has changed. So I pour the first, of many glasses of wine. (There are Co-Op’s closing down left right and centre. There’s a sale on don’t you know.) I start writing this, and I listen. And I listen. And I listen.
Instead of stretching out the sound established on their EP across a full length, the band have showed there are more tricks up their sleeve. For this reason the songs on Dreamers, whilst always sitting well together, offer up a far more varied listening experience when taken in as a whole.
Though the experimentation isn’t drastic, a willingness to experiment is something that should definitely be encouraged. In many ways through the widening of their sound the band have created a far more accessible one. The first half of the album is like a radio playlist in its own right. Each track easily imaginable a radio friendly unit shifter. Something you’d hear on those long drives, whether commuting or hitting the road for further afield.
Whereas the EP’s poppier moments very much had an indie niche to them, the tracks here display more of a pop rock inflection, ripe for mainstream radio. Opening track Don’t Run Away is a prime example of this, a rock chug broods under Jane Smith’s vocals through the verses until it all lifts into an instant and catchy chorus. However, Don’t Run Away does suffer to my ears at least (and so too do a number of tracks) from sounding a little Paramore.
I know it’s lazy journalism to tag any female fronted rock/pop band into the ‘sounds like Paramore’ category. It’s hackneyed. I know. However, I’d never even have imagined making the comparison from the EP, thought never crossed my mind. It does though several times through the album, not just in the female vocals/pop rock backing, but in the vocals themselves there’s a certain quality/inflection that seems to have been adopted to vocals and their melodies that I can’t help be reminded of Hayley Williams.
It could be an intentional addition to broaden their listening spectrum, and it will certainly work because this four piece know how to right good songs. Thankfully though, for all the little reminders the band’s own character shines through a lot more. Everyday for example has the subtlest hint in the vocals but the music and the chorus have this very folksy, almost country drive to it.
Then slower tracks like Without You sport this very quirky groove and vocal that brings to mind Regina Spektor, before they drop into this very subtle, gentle folk that’s touching. It’s the switch around the two within the song that goes to show the band’s development and experimentation was well worth it. Keep Your Heart is a ballad that isn’t afraid to groove, the bass strut underneath really brings it to life. It does bring back the Paramore comparison again, but it’s done so well, the hint of distortion as well adds a nice edge too.
It’s with See You Again, that I really come round to the album and the song that I feel initiates the strongest display of the bands prowess. Starting beautiful letting Smith’s voice really shine as she coos the line ‘…and if Heaven’s not real, I’d sell my soul to see you again’ over a faint piano before the band come in and continue to build. It really shows their folk side, which I feel is perhaps their strongest side. It has the air of Laura Marling and even a bit of KT Tunstall.
It seems to me Smith really sings in her own voice with the remaining tracks, and the band play with their most honest songs. We’ll Never Learn is another beautiful ballad and the vocal and instrumentation combined is haunting. I would quite happily sit staring out a rain soaked window or walk across a windswept cliff top as I thought about past relationships with this as the soundtrack. At which point I add, if the band fancy taking that idea for a video, I’m generally always free.
To my ears it’s strong track after strong track here on out; Ghost is brilliant and walks the line between Regina Spektor, Laura Marling and Tegan and Sara. Do You Love Me is heartfelt, pure and broken as it pleads with a lover to know the answer to its title. My Dear brings back a KT Tunstall strut, and it’s folk pop with swagger and you’d swear an Irish charm. Home is another contender for sitting looking and sad and feeling ways about things, it ends the album beautifully, softly, tenderly.
The album isn’t as instant as the EP, but it shows how they’ve grown, and who wants a band who just replicates the same thing over and over. These songs show a level of maturity beyond a debut album, and my personal gripes aside (the more pop rock/mainstream radioy/Paramore moments), there is plenty on offer here, and the really great stuff, is stunning. I had to say stunning because I’m still listening to Home as I write this. More like the latter half of the album please? I want to love you long time. Listen and show these the support they deserve.