Singer/songwriter wears influences on sleeves, pant legs, headband, socks…
The temptation is to dismiss Brett Dennen as the sort of derivative ’70s-style singer/songwriter that serves as triple-A radio’s foundation. But maybe the way to look at Hope for the Hopeless—the California native’s third album—is less as the work of a provocative newcomer and more as period drama: historical fiction based in the early-’70s sound of Bob Dylan and The Band, with Van Morrison and Neil Young dropping by. A perfect example is “Wrong About Me,” a “Saint Dominic’s Preview” of an anthem that uses a familiar sound to tackle one of Van’s favorite subjects: professional criticism. Besides a forgettable jaunt into Afro-influenced pop (featuring a bored-sounding Femi Kuti), there’s nothing new about Hopeless, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Beyond mere aping, Dennen uses these stylistic references and songwriting anachronisms as colors in his paint box. For those still enthralled by the lyrical twists and midtempo folk-rocking of 1972, this record will be manna from heaven.