Comparing Seattle singer-songwriter Tom Dyer to Tom Waits might seem like an easy trap to fall into, but it’s an apt relation nonetheless. On his eighth album I Ain’t Blue Anymore, Dyer embraces the spirit the legendary singer across 13 tracks, but don’t let bad experiences with Waits wannabes sour you here. Importantly, Dyer manages not to rely on moody doom-and-gloom like so many others who follow in those footsteps. A key element here, maybe the best part of the record, is the whimsy with which Dyer approaches this recording. Despite potentially dour subjects, Dyer (what a name, by the way) is having fun here. Listeners will too.
That’s why I Ain’t Blue Anymore is best described as a main course of Waits with a side of Frank Zappa goofiness. Listen to a song like “Call On Me”; Zappa’s influence on those synth hits and atonal guitars is unmistakable. Dyer has another, better hidden off-kilter ally, too — production-wise, this record most closely resembles the seminal They Might Be Giants disc Lincoln, with its tinny strings and distant (synthetic) drums. Even if those sound like bad things, well, they’re not; this production adds a distinct, memorable and somewhat lithe feel to the record that contrasts nicely with its more morose elements.
Check out a track like “(People Want To Be) Free.” The lyrics suggest a ponderous, unironic political romp ala Patti Smith, but the production and the performance undercuts the potentially pedantic nature of this track. Dyer is having a blast delivering these lyrics, and at times his guitar playing wanders gleefully out of tune. It’s really a joy to listen to a totally unexpected song like this.
If there’s one downside with this album, it’s that it gets a little long. A few tracks in the middle meander a bit; the runtime of this record probably could’ve been cut from 53 minutes to 40 without losing much. But all-in-all that’s a pretty minor quibble; taken on their own, most of these songs stand out as punchy, fun, cool blues/rock tracks.
Dyer ties his record together nicely at the end with a slightly more serious track, one in the vein of a Nancy Sinatra dirge with Roky Erikson-style vocals. This closing number, “The Day I Died,” adds a nice depth to the record and does a fitting job closing out this 13-track journey. Really, it’s emblematic of the whole disc – you’re never sure exactly what Dyer’s going to do next; his music is delightfully idiosyncratic and a whole lot of fun to listen to. Even if there’s a bit of dragging in the middle, this is an album worth revisiting for its various musical adventures.
tags: tom dyer
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more