Of Dreams by Lee Smythe is an album that went a little under the radar in 2016. The album strikes a wonderful balance between melancholy, solace, joy and well a whole bunch of other emotions. The songs never pull too far in one emotional direction which I think feels a lot more closer to what life actual feels like.
The album gets going with “Waste Away With Me” which is wonderful opener. It feels a bit celebratory similar to the way that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band starts off. There is quite a lot of instrumentation including background vocals, organ, percussion, bells and bass but it feels rather sparse with plenty of room for the lead vocals to breathe.
Up next is “I Need You” which is a highlight. The song is infectious, upbeat and warm. It’s one of those I couldn’t imagine anyone not liking. Oh and that hook and banjo were just money. “Hey” starts off subtle with not much more than vocals and acoustic guitar. The tambourine kind of made it feel like something was brewing. A little before the halfway mark the song starts to expand in a celebratory epic song perhaps similar to Arcade Fire in a number of ways.
“Spirits Own the Night” was a little more single worthy to my ears. It sounded like a merging of The Shins and U2. “Throw Your Stones” is another highlight. The vocals are as catchy as ever and feel more prominent in the mix. The instrumentation is also really well done with unique leads and dynamics fills.
Up next is “June & Jerry” which is another dynamic song. The hand claps, breakdowns and builds are smooth and seamless. There was actually a particular song done by Jonsi that this reminded me of. “Had to Be Me” is the intimate, tortured artist song in the batch while “In My Sights” changes the mood almost completely with the most joyous sounds yet.
“Ok, Anne” is an emotional resonant song and the album comes to close with the title track “Of Dreams.” “Of Dreams” feels like a load off your mind. The vibe is so relaxing in a way like your problems are momentarily solved and you are holding hands with the one you love and you actually realize how important this moment is.
Smythe almost attempts too much on this album. I was happy I didn’t run into any attempts at hip-hop and EDM. He stays just within the right circle of styles but perhaps doesn't quite find a signature sound that would make me recognize a Smythe song playing on the ceiling speakers at Starbucks. On that note the songwriting, delivery and production is exceptional. There are a couple of songs I will be revisiting again. Highly recommended.
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