Following speedily on from last year’s sublime mini-LP, Emancipated Hearts, Dean Wareham carries on solo trading with the first self-monikered full-length set of his continuously enlightening post-Luna career. Those expecting the album to be an overtly rocking reaction to the intricate and pensive Emancipated Hearts – particularly with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James assuming production duties instead of Papercuts’ Jason Quever – might be surprised by the resultant new record, which finds Wareham in an even more strung-out and brooding mood.
Whereas Emancipated Hearts took many of its cues from literary sources, this sequel possesses a more personalised resonance, with shades of late-night ‘70s singer-songwriting melded into often sonically ethereal arrangements, awash with gauzy layers of guitars, smeary synths, subtly-embedded electronics, low-slung bass and jazz-scented drums. Not that this means the nine gathered songs stick strictly to a set formula but there is a seamless movement between the slow-burners and the pacier pieces.
Hence “The Dancer Disappears” chimes the album into action with a sway reminiscent of Luna’s diaphanously dreamy final album Rendezvous, before bleeding into the reverb and synth-soaked contemplation of “Beat The Devil” and a gently slinky interpretation of “Heartless People” (a previously unreleased song penned by Michael Holland of Jennyanykind). The ensuing “My Eyes Are Blue” twinkles with a romantic decorum that wouldn’t sound out of place next to “Bobby Peru” on Luna’s Pup Tent, ahead of seguing into the remarkably bleak yet beatific “Love Is Not A Roof Against The Rain,” which sprawls out into a Dark Side Of The Moon-like existential ending. The downcast mood is sustained into “Holding Pattern” and “I Can Only Give You My All,” albeit through greater rhythmical gusto, with the former cranking-up the guitars and the latter adding in a dark pulsing early-New Order groove.
Whilst the front-end and middle of the collection may take some repeat spins to fully earn affection, the two six minute epics that conclude proceedings are unquestionable gems fron the first airing. The falsetto voiced and fuzz-solo adorned “Babes In The Woods” unashamedly and successfully flashes back to Wareham’s finest Galaxie 500 epiphanies and the gorgeous “Happy & Free” pulls us through the album’s pervading melancholia with a gliding synth-and-drum led dream-pop uplift.
Perhaps Dean Wareham could have glued-together the best moments from this self-titled set with the cream of the preceding Emancipated Hearts, to make one defining and more accessible solo statement. Yet whilst such a move might have been commercially shrewder it would have deprived us of following his ongoing artistic self-exploration in such intimate and rewarding depth. Long may he run…