Review Summary: Another waveless day out on the lake.
When Alice Boman first caught my ears with the likes of ‘The More I Cry’ and ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ – the former a slow-motion heartbreak and the latter a wistful farewell – I was certain that I’d already uncovered the first indie-pop gem of 2020. Boman’s voice is smooth and angelic, sliding across elegant and minimal soundscapes like water dripping down an icicle – these sad, shape-shifting vignettes. It felt like she could make any song interesting with only her voice.
Unfortunately, when Dream On
was revealed in its entirety, very little changed. Every song feels like a dejected ode to someone or something far off, but Boman too often settles for sleepy when she aspires for dreamy; cliché when she’s pining for insightful. Opener ‘I Wish We Had More Time’ rocks back and forth like a boat enduring the relentless crests of an afternoon tied to the dock, and the song is only just as interesting aside from a ghostly choir that injects life into the final thirty seconds. The ensuing ‘Heart on Fire’ is another ballad that is too elegant for its own good, repeating the lines “you set my heart on fire” to a glass-tinged backdrop – but again, it just glides along aimlessly until it dissipates into nothing. It takes relatively little time for listeners to start asking themselves, “who cares”, and that’s sort of the overarching dilemma with Boman’s debut.
Chock-full of minimalistic indie-pop ballads, Dream On
makes almost no waves. Sure, it settles for pretty while occasionally stumbling upon gorgeous, but its consistent atmosphere is a result of Boman’s mesmerizing vocal cords – not any artistic appetite for creation. The aforementioned pair of singles (‘The More I Cry’, ‘Don’t Forget About Me’) best showcase her potential, combining palpable emotion with moody rhythms. Nearly the entire remainder of the record suffers from a particularly bland case of homogeneity, making it difficult to pick one song out of the bunch. Some elements of inspiration momentarily peak their heads out of the water, gasping for air, but it’s never long until they plummet back into darkness never to be heard from again.
As frustrating as these transient peaks are (the second half of ‘This Is Where It Ends’ deserves a special mention), they’re a reminder that Dream On
’s pitfalls are primarily a result of poor direction as opposed to absent talent. It’s rather easy to envision a future record where Boman pairs her voice with burgeoning electronics, swelling strings, or even the occasional electric guitar riff just to spice things up – and has it elevate her career. Understandably, that may not be her style – but Dream On
is missing something
, and as long as Boman continues to trudge the path of minimalism (that almost borders on indifference), her music will struggle to differentiate itself from the thousands of other indie-pop/folk songstresses out there who all write and sing about heartache in a similar way.