The Upshot: Lusher and more complicated than Bauer’s previous effort, it’s a strange one, populated by mythical creatures and unspoken dangers, with his powers of observation as sharp and naturalistic as ever.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Matt Bauer limns lurid, surreal landscapes in murmury understatement, his voice kept to a whisper as he describes events both vivid and strange. He sounds a lot like Richard Buckner — with vibrato flourishes that are barely voiced, hardly a puff of air behind them, and lines that open new, darker perspectives, all the sudden like at a bend in the road. His latest album is a strange one, populated by mythical creatures and unspoken dangers, but his powers of observation are as sharp and naturalistic as ever. You believe in the world that Dream’s End creates. It makes sense on its own terms.
Matt Bauer’s last album, The Island Moved in the Storm, was hallucinogenic but plain spoken and sparely recorded, its description of a girl’s murder carried out by traditional Americana instruments. Dream’s End is lusher and more complicated, its banjo-plunked simplicities filled out with flourishes of strings, rackety drums, piano and, at one point, in melancholy “Too Late” a breathy flute that almost exactly matches his vocal timbre. The range of instruments Bauer uses this time adds uneasy, unearthly beauty. Female vocal counterparts and harmonies give cuts like “Silver Orchard” a witchy undertow; a high thin violin line swoops vertiginously between banjo plucks. There’s a feeling of fog and uncertainty in this collection of songs, of lovely textures that are hard to get a handle on.
The disc’s best song is, perhaps, its most straightforward, the indie-folk strummed and crooned, “I Am Trying to Disappear,” which contains Dream’s Ends’s most memorable tune. Yet even here, Bauer lands softly on the hook, reinforcing the dreamy ambiguity of the line with a vocal tone that is slipping out of hearing. “And when you asked me why I’m here/I am trying hard to disappear,” he sings, and it’s a couplet that is already fading at the edges as you listen, but that will stay with you forever if you let it.
DOWNLOAD: “I Am Trying to Disappear”