Dylan Shearer – Garagearray (2014)

“Popsicle melting     it’s fine”

84

Sometimes a label newsletter can turn you on to something new. Though it didn’t sound like anything I associated with Castle Face (the “garage” of the album title ain’t rock), but a bit of soft-sell hype (evoking Syd Barrett for one) compelled me towards sampling a song or two and I took a chance on it. (edit: CF hooked me again just now with something called ORB…)

It begins with a dirge, and the narrow low register of Shearer’s voice may not promise a lot of range, but its expressiveness is immediately empathetic. With “Time To Go,” we’re geared for an album that’s going to play slow and loose with time signatures. It’s a piano piece that’s right for setting the scene, but when I think of this record it’s the guitar I remember, and the acoustic “Meadow Mines (Fort Polio)” is more instantly arresting. As the subtitle promises, wordplay runs rampant here, and Shearer out-mellows Neil Young with the even more cosmic notion to “meadow my mind.” His delivery has such a lulling effect that audibly deciphering the words is almost impossible, though the lyric sheet shows that they aren’t bad at all. I had to read ‘em over to find a pull quote, to learn how sad they really are, and be reminded that life is only a “flickering” concern. It also took this careful listen  for me to notice for the first time that the dramatic shift in the middle of the title track wasn’t the start of another song entirely. This is psychedelic music that doesn’t employ studio tricks to displace you, but it’s the actual playing that invokes a woozy feeling. You’d think it was mostly recorded live if you didn’t know that Shearer was playing all the lead instruments—you can hear the rhythm section responding to his left turns (witness the faint regard for a steady tempo in “Tough on Grease”) and the only obvious overdub is the second voice on “Mold in the Fold.” Though he doesn’t sound quite like anyone else, and I couldn’t guess what his influences are, “Mold” is one song that recalls another artist for me—something like a Pete Dello reunion-era Honeybus track. Though Shearer sings more frequently of cold and frost and snow, this feels like a hazy summer record to me. On my third such season with it, he still makes all the aching and longing a perverse pleasure. I hope he’s not an unhappy fellow.

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