Dent May told me several years ago in a phoner for Paste he wanted to play weddings. His third album has that right sound—airy and radio-glossed. However, the subject matter—aches and confusions of the heart—doesn’t quite gel with chapel bells.
On its surface, Warm Blanket sounds like a mild soap release. It’s a heather gray T-shirt, Neopolitan ice-cream—everyone is content, but no one is delirious. That hunch ends after a few cursory listens.
At its core, Warm Blanket is a tremendously revealing album.
“It Takes A Long Time” bounds across black construction paper, plugging together a vibrant Lite Brite design with synth, piano and horns. “It takes a long time to find a love that feels so magic / So have a good time / Because the world can be so tragic,” May sings. He could mean romantic love, but I don’t think he does.
May reigns creative pharaoh over his tiny Oxford, Miss. kingdom. He and I both addressed this before, with last year’s Do Things, specifically “”Home Groan. There, he orchestrates a dynamic arts scene, with performance space Cats Purring as a major hub.
He traveled to St. Augustine, Fla. to record Blanket—a small hike from his hometown, but only barely out of the timezone. Seems change might be due. “Corner Piece” confronts the scary possibility of getting swallowed. “I’m one small fish in the great, big ocean / Lost in the sea / Spend too much time wishin’ and hopin’ / You could love me…Soon I might be dialing your number.” Is he ready to leave Mississippi? He sounds panicked, on a time-crunch, both here (“I live a life that I don’t wanna waste”) and with “I’m Ready To Be Old.” May is under 30.
There’s even a sneaky ode to Oxford, May’s main-squeeze community. “Endlessly” glides like a sweet slow dance. “And one thing is for sure / I traveled shores and shores / I’ve seen some girls that I adore / But still I crawl back to your door.” May has sung about considering life in larger, more metropolitan cities and he’s sure as hell played lots of them, yet he stays put.
Seems like May is panicking beneath a halo of twinkle lights, keeping warm in his nest of Mississippi familiarity and local artistic applause.
Regardless of whether or not my location crisis theory holds any truth, Blanket is definitely the most genre-diverse of May’s catalog. There’s more of that disco we dug from Things, splashed with a Polynesian chiller and shook hard with piano romps. May might be freaking out about eating lunch at 11 a.m. soon, but this maturation brings some good growth to his musical breadth.
As the old adage goes, a legendary pillow fort isn’t built in a day. It takes time to get comfortable. Maybe Oxford is May’s warm blanket, wrapping him tight, keeping him safe. But eventually, that must get a little suffocate-y.
When he’s ready to climb out and gulp a breath of fresh air, it could be tremendous personally and creatively. And should that gulp happen in New York, hell, I’ll buy him a welcome to the ‘hood egg cream. That’s a promise, Dent.