Album Reviews: Dean Wareham and David Andree/Josh Mason
Ayo what’s good everybody?
So sometimes when I talk about this blog with my boo, I usually mention albums that I didn't really care for—and lately, there seems to be a lot of those. So she makes the joke that I’m like Jon Lovitz from that cartoon “The Critic,” and I'm always on some “It Stinks!” when it comes to, like, everything I listen to.
But, that’s not always the case.
So in an effort to change things up a little around here, I've decided to combine two reviews of albums that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. One of these records I genuinely liked a lot, and wished I had discovered a lot sooner; and believe it or not, the other is a record that is awful and I am looking forward to deleting that shit from my hard drive.
So like, the last thing I expected here in the first part of 2014 was for the former Luna and Galaxie 500 frontman Dean Wareham to #bless us so soon with another solo release. I mean, after how captivating and memorable his 2013 EP Emancipated Hearts turned out to be, I figured dude wouldn't be able to turn around and shit something else out so quickly after that.
But the gawd has proven me wrong here, and Wareham is back with a self-titled full-length effort, which is the perfect album for you if you are a middle-aged individual with a sustaining membership to public radio. And I know I find myself saying that a lot around this place—making jokes about public radio, and #cooldads, and whatnot, but like, this Dean Wareham joint is what I presume you want to listen to if you have a 401k that has a legit amount of money in it, and you, like, read The New York Times, so you can begin conversations with your co-workers by saying things like, “Oh I was reading in The New York Times…,” because like for real, people like that exist, you know? And this is maybe what they want to listen to.
Like, Dean Wareham is an “adult” record. It’s made by an adult—dude is in his 50s now—for other adults. And I mean I guess you could say that I too am an adult, but this, like many “adult oriented” records, is just completely failing to connect with me.
Somewhere between channeling Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan at times, the record opens with the sleepy twinkles of “The Dancer Disappears,” and if you have listened to this song, you’ve pretty much listened to the other eight that follow. It’s a very samey record, sluggishly shuffling along from song to song.
Dude has crafted a record that is so painfully boring that it’s almost impossible for me to fathom t that somebody would actually want to listen to this—or even enjoy listening to this, and clocking in at less than 40 minutes, it’s so horribly uninteresting that it makes time stand still.
Much as he was on Emancipated Hearts, Wareham is still reaching for notes that he cannot quite grasp, and his yelpy vocal delivery is rather unpleasant. Musically, there seems to be an equal amount of alt. country leanings and psychedelic pop influence throughout Dean Wareham, as well as a kind of reserved, morose take on warm, golden 1970s AM radio sound—a production technique that has become increasingly popular with a lot of records I have been hearing as of late.
There are a few moments that I was kind of like, “Eh. This is aight,” when listening to this album. The jazzy guitar noodling on “Heartless People” is not bad, and when Wareham tries to pick up the pace, like in the second half, on “Holding Pattern,” and “I Can Only Give My All,” it’s appreciated, you know? But like, two slightly faster songs don't really make up for the other six that plod along lifelessly.
But in a completely unrelated and refreshing change of pace is the collaborative joint between experimental artists David Andree and Josh Mason, Call, Response, a record that I’m very late to the party on—having been released on January 1st. I just discovered it very recently by looking through reviews that had been tagged as “ambient” on the excellent music website Anti-Gravity Bunny.
Usually I don't really like to review things that are, like, two months old, but I felt that this was good enough to break my unspoken rule and mention in it here. Also, it’s been a minute since I've been on my ambient tip. And to try to get out of the malaise that records like Dean Wareham, and that new Beck, and that new Real Estate, and that new War on Drugs, et. al, had got me in, I went out seeking something original and exciting to listen to—because I mean you can only listen to mixtape rap for so long before you need to find solace in something else.
The two artists, Andree dwelling from right here in Minnesota, and Mason, residing in Florida, recorded the album in an “exquisite corpse” manner—the record is truly a call, and a response. The press release that accompanies sums it up the best—
A single take of material performed by one artist was recorded to magnetic tape and sent to the other with the restriction that accompaniment be recorded in real time as well, closely simulating a live performance.
The slightly warped sounding glimmers that can be heard throughout are slightly reminiscent of Brian Eno’s 2012 effort Lux, but overall, the result of Call, Response is an incredibly fascinating and original piece of work.
Call, Response is, needless to say, a very moody and restrained listen. It unfolds very delicately and deliberately. Every track is hushed like the whisper of a secret, and in listening you continue to lean in closer, ensuring that you do not miss anything. The pieces, of which there are four “real” tracks (along with an introduction and an “outro” bookending it) all have a cohesive feel to them—similar in the sense that they are all a part of the larger whole, but all unique enough to stand on their own and evoke slightly different emotions.
In taking a moment to reflect on my thoughts on both of these records, I find it somewhat interesting that some of you may be bored to tears by an ambient/experimental release like Call, Response, while I am captivated by it. And in turn, some of you may really find something of interest in Dean Wareham, while I would rather sit in silence than ever have to hear any of that album ever again. I suppose that’s the subjective thing about music, though, isn't it? What I find to be full of heart, or rather heartless—you may not agree with.
But I'm the one who writes for this blog so everybody is entitled to my opinion.
If you like real music, Call, Response is available now via Own Records, with US availability in the Experimedia online store.
If you don't like real music, and are a #cooldad that likes being bored to the point of madness, Dean Wareham is available now via his own Double Feature imprint.