When Dean Wareham’s debut self-titled solo LP arrives on March 11, it may surprise listeners new and old to realize it’s his first release under his own name. While he has been active for nearly 25 years (primarily in Galaxie 500 and Luna) he has never released an album as Dean Wareham. Any concerns that this might be a vanity project should be ignored – the album is a natural progression in a career filled with high points. Production work was handled by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, in his Louisville studio.
The album opens with “Dancer Disappears”. Wareham personifies himself as an arrow and bow, one departing from the other. He laments his leaving, but knows it is necessary, singing “I loved it yeah, but I’m ready to go. Now that we’re here, I’m ready to leave the whole wide world behind”. It’s the kind of melancholia that has made his earlier works so effective, and it’s a testament to his skill as a songwriter that his words can still hit so heavily.
After being asked in an interview what the songs sounded like, Wareham replied that “some were mellow” and “others rock”. With a long, well-respected career based on these two dynamics, one might think Wareham was being facetious. He’s not. Each song exists on its own pedestal, guided primarily by one force or the other. Look no further than back-to-back opposites “Love Is Not a Roof Against the Rain” and “Holding Pattern”. The former is a slow burning dirge, led by guitar swells and Wareham’s subject asking “what have I done with my life, what have I done with the keys? What have I done to deserve this.” This is followed by an uptempo rock song , one of the choruses referencing “Kansas, Boston, Toto, and Journey”. Wareham clearly has a good sense of humour, but knows when to dial it back, and it makes his songs that much more inviting.
Wareham’s self-titled effort is a brilliantly crafted record. With another album due out before the year’s end, this could be the first signal of an exciting new chapter in his career.