Review Summary: Shhhhhh, the bear is sleeping
I gave Fever Dreams
a first listen, as will likely be the case for many, solely due to the engrossingly excellent album artwork. The trippy beauty of the cover gives little indication of the music it represents, but it draws one in nonetheless. Ultimately, I’m happy to report that the gorgeous cover actually represents the musical contents within, oddly enough, quite well.
I’ve since learned that Fever Dreams
is the fifth full-length of an Ireland-based band, and that Villagers have traditionally been most firmly identified with indie folk (accompanied by a host of Bright Eyes comparisons). That descriptor really doesn’t easily characterize this latest effort though. While hard to define, Fever Dreams
is a lush release enriched by psychedelic indie (a la My Morning Jacket’s recent works), soul, and sophisti-pop, with lesser touches of folk and jazz as well. The results are an intriguing mix of accessibility and experimentation, ending up a satisfying success despite notable flaws.
All ten songs on the album were recorded in the months immediately leading up to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, the painstaking process of editing and mixing took place, and the results are impressive. Regardless of how one feels about the songs themselves, this is just a great-sounding album, with a lush sheen and sense of vibrancy encompassing the record from start to finish.
While every song has something to offer, there are a number of highlights on Fever Dreams
which are easy to gush about. There’s “The First Day”, a buoyant number pumped full of smooth, soulful euphoria. “So Simpatico” is perhaps the album’s catchiest tune, a psych-pop song topping seven minutes and complete with a lengthy saxophone solo. Late in the tracklist, “Full Faith In Providence” is a rare moment in which the music recedes and the lyrics take center stage, and they certainly shine with heartfelt feeling.
There are myriad gripes which can be made about Fever Dreams
. For one thing, the album begins with a seemingly unnecessary intro track of under a minute. For another, the record feels a bit ramshackle with its mix of poppy and more out-there (and dare we say, even “pretentious”) moments. Finally, even the quality of some of the songs is up for debate: while the lyrics are reliably good, they rarely are the focus of attention, and melodically a lot of these tunes feel somewhat pedestrian, even if it’s easy to ignore this due to the shimmer and shine of the immaculate arrangement and production.
However, despite these criticisms this is an album which, ultimately, just works. The disparate elements which Villagers have worked with end up coming together nicely and provide an enjoyably varied listen, therein lies the album’s genius. For all its weirdness, the core of Fever Dream
is a spirit of romance and optimism which is hard to fully resist, a strange but inviting brew which recalls the aforementioned album art. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to spinning this through the warmer days of early autumn, as that time of year seems to be the perfect match for the album’s mellow mood.