Dylan McDonald and the Avians
Fueled by Dreams of the Future
Official URL: https://www.dylanmcdonaldandtheavians.com/
Press materials always mean well. They have a band or solo artist they want to promote. They want to do business with you. However, it’s scary to entertain any educated guess about how many career trajectories they’ve skewed with heedless comparisons that are usually way off the mark. Pushing Dylan McDonald and the Avians as the possible second coming of John Lennon or Neil Young may aid Joe The PR Guy in writing copy, but performs a needless disservice on the band’s artistic and commercial ambitions. Dylan McDonald doesn’t need pushing as the New Anybody – the album Fueled by Dreams of the Future is resolutely independent and continually redefining itself while staying true to its core values.
This contrast of redefinition and stability is in the first song. “Broken Lullabies” breaks with the sub-genre of lovelorn songs with sharper lyric observations, an unusual singer without much pop appeal, and production so intimate it is practically claustrophobic. However, the song’s packed with a number of common elements – among them, its bruising bites of rock guitar and satisfying (if a bit predictable) crescendos. “Another 9 Billion Years” bounces forward like a whip-smart nod to guitar-driven Brit pop rock and McDonald’s vocal stretches out with enough emotion to make the lyric’s complaint even more effective. Once again, McDonald shows real flair for taking traditional elements or songwriting modes and sprucing them up with signature touches like the brief keyboard phrase that occasionally rises to the surface of the mix. By this second song, most listeners will notice production that gives the performances a lot of intimacy, but doesn’t emphasize clarity. The result is that subtitles are weakened or rendered indistinct.
“She Really Burns Me Up” has clumsy, bawdy charm that overcomes any weaknesses. The weaknesses are there however – the song is out of character compared to what precedes it and that might present problems for some listeners. It is a step back from the relative musical sophistication of the earlier tracks, but thudding, simple tempos and clearly delineated parts are clear steps towards airplay – the ultimate goal of tracks like this. McDonald’s vocal is top notch and moves deftly from playful intimacy to passion without missing a beat. “Evil Perfume” returns the band’s songwriting to traditional territory and gives familiar imagery an unusual twist. The musical approach carries more of that distinctive mark, particularly in reverb guitar that occasionally sinks like a dark cloud settling over the song.
“Love Can Never Be the Same” has a shocking industrial stomp that represents either the album’s biggest production failure or else a memorable turn into truly unexpected territory. The song never abandons melody entirely, but the abrasive drums and red blur of guitars fix on pummeling the song’s groove into the ground. The track’s sound is so distracting that many listeners will struggle to get much of a bead on the song’s quality beyond that. “The Ballad of James Getz” has a lazy drag that allows the track a chance to impress listeners by inches instead of in big, lightning-crash instants. McDonald’s use of brass in the song doesn’t seem ideal, but it matches the song’s accumulating power note for note and never overpowers the core unit.
“When You’re the Only One” has one of the album’s best simmers and its slow march to a theatrical high is perhaps the song’s most entertaining aspect. There’s a certain amount of self-pity here that might repel some listeners, but it’s presented honestly, insofar as it’s free from much affectation. It makes for a fine ending to the album because it reaffirms the strengths of so many songs coming before. It personifies the solid fundamentals anchoring many of the songs from Fueled by Dreams of the Future and helps make it such an impressive debut.
8 out of 10 stars
by Joshua Stryde