Matthew Dear's new album, Beams
Matthew Dear has made five albums since creeping on to the scene in 2003. I first heard of him with 2010's Black City, a really great record. It made me check out the albums that came before it; steps in the right direction.
His latest album, Beams, arrived in my letterbox a couple of weeks ago. I've been listening to it a lot. (Two, three times a day. For me that's an awful lot. There's always a lot of music to get through).
It's taken me back to Black City too and though a lot of people will tell you that Black City is the gold standard and this one simply coasts along in an unobtrusive way - with a few slick ideas but not quite the dark spark of his last record - I am totally sold on Beams. It reminds me of the experience I had when SJD released Dayglo Spectres to follow on from Songs from a Dictaphone. I've been listening to those albums a lot recently too - and I still can't pick a favourite (not that you should have to). It's always whichever one I happen to be listening to. I think it will end up being the same with Matthew Dear: Beams one week, Black City the next.
The album's opener, Her Fantasy, immediately announces Dear as the replacement for LCD Soundsystem - and in a voice that's been handed down from David Bowie and Iggy Pop, via Joy Division and then on to James Murphy you get a feeling of what it might be like if The Orb decided to do to some of David Bowie's 70s cuts what Pnau has done to Elton John's. It almost feels like Matthew Dear's take on The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds. It has that waft, and he gives it just a hint of extra bounce.
From there the LCD Soundsystem comparison will continue to float about because - like Murphy - Dear is making music that is for the head and the heart and the hips. All at once. And, like Murphy, he is blurring the roles of instrumentalist, songwriter, DJ, producer, remix-artist and singer to create a form of auteur-pop that's as at home on the dancefloor as it is at, well, home.
But it's not all twisted disco - in fact these after-hours cuts never quite feel like the vacuous dancefloor fillers that get good notices in the hip pages and then disappear, replaced by the next caffeinated trend. If you check out Shake Me you can imagine a Trent Reznor that doesn't take himself quite so seriously - there's emotion, there's completeness, there's connection but somehow there's a detachment too, in that Dear has a way of stepping back from the tune while living inside it, he's painting the picture of the tune, careful to wipe off the brushstrokes, measuring the moments but still investing so much of himself in each piece.
Earthforms, Headcage and Fighting Is Futile keep the album's tempo up to begin with, I keep hearing Bowie, keep thinking that in the absence of David Bowie from the musical landscape this century it's great to hear Dear pushing something out there that is not ashamed to show - quite clearly - where it has come from, but never feels like a rip-off. These ideas are fresh. These songs exist in their own time and space, this artist continues to sound like himself, his own creation.
There's a snatch of a Talking Heads feel to Up & Out (and Fighting Is Futile) and the slippery synths combine with sinewy guitars. The album has such an easy, natural flow to it. It is easy to let it just slide over you, then play it again. And again.
It's always a treat to hear the progression of a contemporary artist - as has been the case with Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors' latest record too. And with Matthew Dear now also - I can't know that I'll be listening to this album next year or next month. But I'd like to think so. It feels like it has enough in it. It feels right to me.
And that's all I wanted to say.
Have you heard Beams? Are you keen to check it out? Are you a Matthew Dear fan? If you haven't heard Black City I definitely recommend it.
And what is the latest new album to really capture your attention in the past couple of weeks?