I cannot tell if the man-woman hollering in “Her Fantasy” says “compliments,” “confidence” or “coffee beans,” but I’m really rooting for the latter as they are the sole source of my energy to write this. I listened to Beams, the sixth full-length release from Matthew Dear, probably a dozen times‚ usually while splayed on my sweaty couch with my roommates and always while hopped on nicotine. Today I tried an alternative approach, loading the record onto my busted iPhone and setting up camp in a climate-controlled coffeeshop. The only drug I’m on is caffeine, but the whistles and sound walls of what might be a chorus of singing babies suggest otherwise. Dear’s voice whips around like a velveteen state flag atop a blustery mountain. A disco beat pulses, hot with fury.
The following track, “Earthforms,” takes a breakneck turn of tone. It rocks with a cactus spine-studded baseline, solidifying its outlier status on the record. Sometimes the track grows so bold as to summon Interpol-esque affection, like a glamourous vulture on a southwestern highway.
Man, if lightning bugs could sing, they would sing like the soprano sample in “Ahead of Myself.” It’s all about crossing bridges before they even appear in soft focus on the horizon‚ as you might have guessed from the song’s title. Although it’s a trite concept, Dear’s delivery sounds new, bathed in glowing, emerald light.
“Fighting Is Futile” stresses me out with its clashing vibes, mixing both Carnival Fun Ships and stretching, haunted hallways. There are steel drums. It makes me nervous.
“Up & Out” hoists up the vibe again to get the groove back in your fingertips (for disco points, duh). Also delightfully strange, “Get The Rhyme Right” centers around a ravenous radio dial on the hunt for a clear frequency, growing more looney with heightened hunger.
All neutral colors evaporate with the vibrant “Do The Right Thing,” a song dealing with taking responsibility, consequences and other grown-up topics we generally try to avoid. The Islandy percussion “Fighting” attempted completes execution here.
“Shake Me” touches on more of those bummer adult topics, namely rejection of guilt. “How could you trust someone as suspicious as me? / When you knew I’d turn you in eventually.” It’s rotten and gaunt. Its hollow cheeks are poured full of poison, shuffles and stark, warped guitar. It’s almost the end of the record.
Nearly bookending Beams in a similar beat to “Her Fantasy,” “Temptation” files the edge off, making it softer. Dear pulls the soprano fireflies from the other track for another turn in their own spotlight. “I felt hands reach down to protect my fate / I saw everything for the first time,” he sings. Sounds like 2012 has been a weird, illuminating year for Dear, too. Maybe we can all take helpful hints from the sarcastic, repeated, “Onto the right / Let’s fall to pieces.” Or maybe we should just drink more caffeine.