Joe Dillstrom is making his debut with Revolving Doors, a set of ten dusty acoustic-led tunes. Dillstrom professes a love for early rock n’ rollers and ‘70s singer/songwriters, and the influence of Bob Dylan and Neil Young loom large over his work. Though there’s not necessarily anything revolutionary about Revolving Doors, Dillstrom delivers a crisp, well-performed slate of ballads, light rock n’ roll and folk.
Dillstrom claims that transition and uncertainty are main themes of the record, and that’s evident from the first song “Osaka.” Opening the record with the image of “cherry blossoms thawing,” a traditional symbol of changing seasons in Japan, Dillstrom proceeds to paint a wistful picture of a worn-out person looking to leave the past behind them. A lovely electric guitar break ties the bow on a breezy and bittersweet track.
Other highlights include the propulsive full-band twanger “Oh, My-O” and the clever and bouncy “Postcard (From a Long Decline).” “Postcard” opens with the line “I went and got my inner monologue / copyright protected / just in case anybody says my thoughts / aren’t my own,” turning after the humorous lines towards an emotional refrain. It’s an excellent example of Dillstrom’s various tendencies as a songwriter brought into balance.
“Radio Tokyo” is a somber ballad that retells the story of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese military holdout in the Philippines who was not convinced that World War II had ended, only returning to society in 1974. Taking Onoda’s perspective, Dillstrom depicts a convicted man eroded by years of survivalist austerity, still desperately clinging to his “one shot at G.I. Joe.” It’s haunting, and gives the relatively relaxed record a deeply contemplative moment.
All in all, Revolving Doors demonstrates that Dillstrom has a knack for thoughtful lyrics and classic styles of American music. Though the record has its weak spots, the overall effect is that of a singular creative vision. Hopefully Dillstrom can carry that vision to a long career.
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