Monday, January 26, 2009

Album: Lonely Dear - Dear John

Dear John
Album: Dear John
Polyvinyl Records, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Prior to hearing this record, I knew nothing about Lonely Dear except the name. So when I first turned on Dear John, I had no idea what to expect.

The surprise was pleasant - at first. The album starts out with two killer indie pop tracks, "Airport Surroundings" and "Everything Turns To You," both featuring massive orchestration (much of it electronic) and intricate arrangements. The production is outstanding, with a relentless attention to detail.

However, after the opening two songs, the album began to disappoint. Its many ballads have lyrics that are, frankly, unbearable. They sound like they might have been written by a precocious fifteen-year-old - faux-sophisticated but blatantly cliched and more than a little embarrassing. I'm not sure if the lyrics in the upbeat songs are actually better or if it's just easier to ignore them, but in either case, the contrast in quality between fast and slow songs on Dear John is drastic.

Lonely Dear
Lonely Dear

The record does have some good songs after the first two, though. "Under a Silent Sea" starts out gentle and with very satisfying dramatics, shifts to a blasting chorus. "Violent" has a more conventional indie pop feel to it, with a simple but entrancing bass line. The final track, "Dear John," is also charming in its way - halfway through, it morphs into a Sousa-esque military march. This and other horn-heavy arrangements are reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel, which is always a plus.

In the end, I'm not sure whether to recommend buying this album or not. If you don't mind cliched wallowing lyrics, definitely pick up a copy. If you can't tolerate them, you should still try to download the album's less whiny songs - despite the lyrical shortcomings, the arrangements and melodies are enough to delight any pop fan.

Dear John hits stores tomorrow.

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