by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
When breaking the seal on a new David Vassalotti album one doesn’t quite know what to expect. His 2016 album Broken Rope felt like a genre-less excursion through the many interests that take up residence in his psyche. But on his new album Guitar Dream, the interests are a little more honed in. One could hear a seed for the album on Broken Rope in the song “Ines de Castro”. Jangle pop warped and stretched into something more sparse and lonely. But while Guitar Dream might be a little more streamlined musically, each song on the album feels like a specific character populating a lonesome town littered across some backroad in the middle of nowhere. A place where the night is still going strong even if it’s the middle of the day.
Album opener “This Extravagant Lie” is that tune playing mournfully on the jukebox as one enters the town’s lone watering hole. “A fitting shadow tightly stretched atop the heap, Another page stained and turned, Notes beget blood in blessed sleep, I’ve never been one to crumble so easily.” Each line from the opening verse could be a specific character populating that barren roadhouse. The music plinking out of the worn speakers a-washed in reverb and delay, the horns coming in just at the right time to ram home the feeling. The feeling of being alone in a crowded room.
“Devenir Immortel…” is the centerpiece of the album and feels like a love theme for two doomed residents. Recalling to mind Godard’s Breathless and Jean-Pierre Melville’s line from the film when asked about his greatest ambition. “To become immortal and then die.” A song layered in smoke, black and white, and those noir notions of love. “You can be my Lauren Bacall, baby” Vassalotti sings. Can a love affair be great enough to live forever?
Elsewhere on the album, “The Other Light” and “The Light” play off each other in an interesting way. Both use the same melody but in different ways. The first being the instrumental “upbeat” version one might hear coming through the overhead speakers at the grocery store while the later is something much more quiet and stark like any secret brought out into the open and laid bare. “In the Garden” may bring to mind a certain band from Manchester if one can’t do without comparison. Other highlights like the line “I’ve let you plant your flag and I’ll hang for only you” in “Manifest Destiny,” the strut of “Let it Burn,” and the electronics that show up on album closer “What Shall You Say Tonight” all lend their efforts to an engaging and worthwhile listen.
For all the abstract, Guitar Dream is essentially a sort of breakup album. It’s a strong collection of songs each unique but definitely a part of the same whole. Sporting production by Merchandise co-labor Carson Cox, Guitar Dream is an album best experienced alone, laying in bed, listening through headphones on a night when your soul won’t let you forget what’s their name.