Matt Hannah – Dreamland
Dreamland, Michigan native Matt Hannah’s second full length album, is a more than worthy successor to his debut Let the Lonely Fade. While the first album announced the arrival of a major new songwriting talent, Dreamland represents the full blossoming of that potential, albeit in an eminently tasteful and artful fashion. Hannah has gathered some top flight players from the Minneapolis music community to help him realize his ambitions for this album and their musical prowess is a key reason why this album is even more successful than his first outing. Dreamland is threaded together along a loose concept – the songs aspire to examine the relationship between what we’ve endured as opposed to what we remember about such things. All of us have a way of recasting our personal histories to suit the narrative arc of our lives and Hannah finds much to write about from this fact.
Many of those themes are presented for listeners in the first song. The title track is an immaculately constructed and accessible music and lyric despite its loftier ambitions. If nothing else, Hannah’s songs are determined to speak and communicate, but listeners are fortunate he places an equal premium on being understood. The same principle is in effect on the album’s second track “Broken Hearts & Broken Bones”. This is a much more dangerous tune, in keeping with its title, and the extra layer of attitude derived from the presence of electric guitar on this track give it a quality that many of the other songs lack. Hannah’s diversity is impressive and he plays it easy. There’s not a single song on Dreamland that sounds like it’s going out of its way to be noticed; it’s a release that, instead, hangs together with impressive unity. There’s little question that he feels quite at home with the near solo approach on these recordings. The sparsely arranged “Dandelion” is probably Dreamland’s best lyric looking outside the songwriter’s consciousness and observing someone else. The gently sculptured acoustic guitar creates fragile melodies strong enough still to support his voice.
There’s some tasty instrumental breaks during the course of “Set Free” and Hannah generates a bit of tension thanks to placing his comparatively dry tone against the arrangement’s canvas of color. It’s fantastic to hear how little uncertainty pervades the album’s ten songs. The electric guitar makes its another appearance on the track “Different Kind of Light”, but this superb arrangement and lyric originally begins life as a straight up acoustic number. It has a lot of melodic value, as well, that ensures its one of the album’s more memorable tracks. The album’s second to last song, “Gone”, alternates energetic instrumental rave ups with bright washes of pedal steel and other guitars with percussion propelled verses adorned with minimal guitar. The choruses and instrumental breaks are particularly rousing. Dreamland is a splendid second album by any measure and sets up Hannah’s career for the long haul. His combination of melodic arrangements and intelligent songwriting with a wide lyrical scope is different than what most of his peers bring to the table and he shows every sign that his artistic growth is far from finished.
9 out of 10 stars