Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Whitest Boy Alive - Dreams

Release Date: March 9, 1999

★★★★★ Tracks:

Golden Cage


I grew up with a father who rarely listened to anything but jazz. Being such a great pianist, he enjoyed instrumental mastery and the skill it takes to write odd time signatures in to a song. Placing the emphasis on lyrics, really a very recent phenomenon in music history, was never something he was OK with. While I understand his sentiment, along with his other major complaint that most pop and rock is confined to major chords and 4/4 time signatures, I never completely embraced jazz myself (I like lyrics too much. And I'm a half-decent guitarist, but not good enough to play most jazz -- so maybe I'm just bitter). But as I grew older I did learn to respect jazz, and slowly I began to listen to some of it on my own. It would eventually lead to a soft spot for any pop/rock artists that include some jazzy elements to their songs. And the Whitest Boy Alive do just that.

I've also been a huge fan of the vocalist Whitest Boy Alive recruited: Euro-pop superstar Erlend Øye. Erlend has a multitude of music projects. And being as Kings of Convenience, my favorite group of his, has one of my all-time favorite folk records, Riot On an Empty Street, I'll give anything of his a shot. With Whitest Boy Alive, his voice compliments the music very well, providing quiet, sparse lyricism to the jazzy and spacious instrumentation the band is so comfortable writing.

All of this should culminate in to a near perfect record for someone like me, but there are a lot of issues with Dreams. It all starts out well enough with the catchy "Burning" and the incredible "Golden Cage," but becomes increasingly monotonous throughout the middle part of the record. There just isn't much risk taken in the overall sound and production of Dreams either. The instrumentation is sometimes too sparse, and there's very little distinction between most of the ten tracks included here. Although Dreams is purposefully minimalist and atmospheric in approach, they could stand to add a bit more excitement to the record, as some might fall in to a dreamless sleep before it's over.

If I'm ever jonesing for some jazzy rock, I'll go to bands like Karate and Sharks Keep Moving, who did this whole thing a lot better about ten years ago. But I do love the two singles on Dreams, especially that walking bass line and guitar jingle on "Golden Cage." And I heard enough promise on this record to go out and grab the second, hoping they'd improved.

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