Thursday, May 22, 2008

171. Dave Dill: Follow The Summer (2008)

Sometimes things just dovetail. As I write, we're in the middle of a pleasantly mild spring, I've just finished compiling a list of the Top 100 Songs of the '70s, and I'm about to get married. Also, I've been listening to Dave Dill's independently-released CD, Follow the Summer. How do these four things relate?

Well, Dill's CD is full of birds, flowers, sunshine, '70s inspired sounds, and love songs. Like I said, dovetailing.

By now we're well into the 4th decade of songwriters who follow in the well-crafted, melodic footsteps of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. That means we have artists now who are inspired by other artists who were inspired by artists who were inspired by the compositions of Wilson, Lennon, and McCartney. I don't doubt that Dave Dill went right to the source, but his music also brings up allusions to many of these aforementioned inspirees. Since I have a serious love/hate relationship with the critical school of comparing one artist to another, I'll get it all out of my system right away: Badfinger, Chicago, E.L.O., The Kinks, Queen, The Raspberries, XTC.

Ahhh, that feels better.

It's worth mentioning that Dill wrote, produced and performed everything on the album. More often than not these bedroom albums feel strangely over-polished and artificial, like the CGI humans in video games and movies. This is thankfully not the case with Follow the Summer. For whatever reason, Dill's songs are full and organic, with space to breathe. It also helps that Dill's voice isn't choir-boy perfect. There's an appealingly rough edge that balances well against the sweetness of the melodies.

The same balancing act happens with the lyrical content. Some power-poppers are so intoxicated by their own melodies and harmonies that they forget to really say anything of consequence. The result is like a blockbuster romantic comedy: fluffy and forgettable. Thankfully, Dill's songs are more like an indie romantic comedy: sweet, but with some bite.

The opener, Today, is a prime example. Dill fantasizes about his girl, and "getting married in the spring." It's undeniably celebratory until you get to the line "maybe we've only got today." As if to underscore the point, the song ends on a somber instrumental note, as if a storm is on the horizon. In You Don't Believe It (one of 3 songs written with Derek Holt of Climax Blues Band) he declares his love clearly, but the object of his affection is reluctant to acknowledge his dedication. And the rockin' Happily Ever After sounds as joyful as its title would indicate, save for the fact that those three words are followed by "I'm after you," meaning that he's forever chasing someone he can't have.

So maybe it was slightly misleading to say the album is full of love songs, but there are more than a handful. Everyday Song, Perfect There, and Never So Beautiful are the most unabashed, by turns declaring "I love you so / and I won't let go", "you're everything to me", and "you make the stars much brighter." All three are hanky affairs.

Finally, we have the outright break-up songs. Though Dill spends the entire song detailing how he's leaving and will be untraceable, Hide and Seek's title belies the message. It's almost as if the whole song is a bluff and he really does want to be found. The swaying title track uses the metaphor of summer's end to explain the end of a relationship. Miss America could have multiple interpretations, but I think it's another clever metaphor, comparing disillusionment with the state of the union to a difficult break up: "Miss America / You can never say that it wasn't fun / But the time is here / You and I we'll fade like the setting sun."

I can safely say that finding my soon-to-be wife was 75% about timing. Well, the same is true for finding an album you really like. Follow the Summer has hit me at the exact right time. With spring in full bloom and summer on the horizon, it might just do the same for you.

Grade: B+
Fave Song: Never So Beautiful

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