So much of Dean Wareham’s songwriting depends upon the guiding hands of the producer. That certainly was the case with his first band Galaxie 500 and the three albums they made under the influence of Kramer‘s hazy visions and prickly attitude. And, as front man for slinky pop group Luna, Wareham’s efforts were honed by the visions of collaborators such as Paul Kimble, Dave Fridmann and Pat McCarthy.
For his first bona fide solo full-length, the laconic singer-songwriter has found an unlikely yet perfect new foil in My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Wareham stays his course, still finding new veins of influence in the discography of the Velvet Underground (“My Eyes Are Blue” combines the jangle of Loaded with a “Stephanie Says”-like glisten), but under James’s tutelage, these nine songs boast unexpected riches.
The simple guitar/bass/drums core of each track remains, but James layers the mix with misty keyboard sounds — listen for the frissons of Mellotron and Juno-106 that erupt through “Beat the Devil,” or the slow Moog waves driving “Holding Pattern” — and thick plumes of reverb. The album bears the imprint of late-’90s and ’00s Britpop, with all the glittery dynamics and arms akimbo theatrics that entails, which forces Wareham to inject his feather-light voice with more passion than he’s attempted in years. It’s a welcome development, one that will hopefully carry him comfortably into this new chapter of his already-beloved career.