Review Summary: Vast, open sky, loneliness and heat.
Willingly inseparable from the nondescript Indiana town that birthed them, indie quartet Thunder Dreamer check several cozy boxes that have critics throwing around labels like “heartland rock” and calling it a day. Capture
has it all: evocative, textured guitars that chime and soar rather than riff; a palpable sense of wide-eyed, windswept atmosphere; an appreciation for the simpler things in life, like the deep-seated existential dread that suffocates those stuck in a city trying to remember its past. In a recent interview with Stereogum
, the band described their hometown, Evansville, Indiana, as one of those old American factory towns where people used to build things with their hands, but now is all but passed over by the 21st century. Drummer Corey Greenfield, speaking succinctly: “No one ever gives a good enough effort around here.” Thunder Dreamer’s music – formerly a solo vehicle for singer Steven Hamilton but now a more collaborative effort – fits that feeling of helpless ennui like a worn pair of gloves.
The touchstones are plentiful and familiar. There’s a lot of Modest Mouse and Manchester Orchestra in the emo revival vibe, moody, atmospheric guitar tones and Hamilton’s uncommonly bright vocals, crackling with a straightforward clarity that is hard to find in any of the genres that Thunder Dreamer crib from. But Hamilton’s guitar stretches and twists like gauze, and the band prefer enough coats of reverb to fill an empty silo. These elements of shoegaze and post-rock turn the fundamentally classic melody of a track like “Living Like the Rest” into a stirring emotional crescendo and the album’s structures as a whole into meandering explorations of times and places. A firm grasp of dynamics gives tracks like slow burning opener “Why Bother” and the desperately insistent anxiety of “St-Malo” a certain elusiveness, transforming songs steeped in Americana and wet, humid summers into something versatile, new, and exciting. First single “You Know Me” is a particularly lucid piece of sparkling dream pop, yet one that effortlessly elongates into an anthem with some muscle and a bite behind it. For a band building with so many familiar blocks, it’s impressive how much of Capture
feels ultimately refreshing.
It’s a fine trick, juggling so many influences they risk being buried faceless beneath them. But in Hamilton’s earnest delivery of plainspoken lyrics and that unadulterated voice, strong and clear enough to break through a muggy, still Midwestern day, Thunder Dreamer have their trump card. “Why am I here" Months turn to years,” he sings on the rollicking, cascading fills of “The Bridge,” Zach Zint’s keyboards plinking out a lovely counterpoint above, and for all its inherent angst, there’s a bit of the rhetorical in Hamilton’s question. Thunder Dreamer have found their sweet spot with this love letter to the circular roads and deserted workshops of middle America, the heat and despair that bakes itself deep into its buildings and its people and forms its own desolate, lonely beauty. Why ever leave"