Maybe Dreamers is the third album from Dandelion Charm released in early November 2019. This new album extends the duo's signature blend of intricate harmonies, soaring melodies and the unofficial third member of the band, Olah, their lovely jumbo twelve-string guitar. Across the tracks the theme of the album explores collective and individual relationships, along with the pursuit of fulfilment through consumption. Expanding on their prog roots, Maybe Dreamers has a hint of jazz and is considered more accessible than their debut 2015 album Tiny Drop.
Released on CD, Maybe Dreamers is also available as a 48kHz / 24bit download from their BandCamp page, and it is that hi-res edition that is reviewed here.
The album opens with John Fowler’s magical 12-string guitar that shimmers and spreads across the stereo soundstage with incredible clarity. As the harmonized vocals chime in I immediately notice how perfect the imaging is across the stereo field. As a testament to high resolution audio, the dynamics and tonal quality are superlative as the duo touches on the obsession with screen use. The oral journey has already begun as “The Cult of More” fades into the second track in storybook proggy fashion.
There is a folk and rock simplicity to these complex songs that has a distinctive progressive leaning. One can hear a wonderful modern folk feel that resembles the early years of Fairport Convention, specifically in how they advanced the sound of folk so dramatically. Dandelion Charm has done the same here with their unique style. Production quality is extremely high with the solid thump of the kick and the focused bright snap of the snare fitting comfortably among the instrumentation that falls across the stereo scape. Each part from the keyboards to the guitar vocals and bass easily find their place within the mix. It is the vivid chorused guitar that strikes me so wildly on the second track “Stephanie,” taking me back to the days of psychedelic rock, while the song explores failed expectation, loss of innocence, and shame.
The title track has a very current pop aspect to it with its seriously deep bass, heading directly into the sub sonic realm. As the duo sings about the dwindling creative population they go on to describe an increasingly dumbed-down society, taking listeners onward to the dreamy course which is accentuated by the entire band that underpins Claire Fowler’s vocals. In a proggy creative segue this five-minute plus piece truly turns Neo-prog with a metal slinging guitar solo before settling back into the original pop driven vocal verses. Among the pure textured keyboards and guitars, the snare is extremely snappy with a crisp edge at the top. Throughout the pieces on the album the sound quality is incredibly clean, completely transparent, providing an absorbing wall of sound that is ecstasy to the aural senses. Near the end of Maybe Dreamers the second guitar solo leans towards a jazzy influence, fizzling out into synth pads and drums. Cymbals sway between the left and center channels, shimmering with overtones. It is these kind of nuances that make hi-res audio so critical to my listening experience.
The sixth track “Pity Bomb” is an absolute rocker on the album. I can easily imagine this being played by many classic rock bands from the 70s. The difference here is the acoustic guitar is providing the rhythm throughout the piece instead of a crunchy electric guitar. Additionally, the grumbly bass at the bottom sounds so fantastic and carries much of the weight with the drums and vocal parts accentuating the peace. Actually, Dandelion Charm may even be paying homage to the early Matthew Sweet sound here. The vocalizations fall deeply into the mix while the second guitar adds a sizzle in the right channel.
The second to last track “Isolate Resolve” is a love song. Describing two people singularly resolved to appreciate and care for each other, the track is delightfully dynamic and a progressive paradise as well. From the quiet passages to the loudest sections, the speakers extrude during this vigorous musical workout. John’s guitar solo steps forward filling the room with a bright edge that is crystal clear while bathed into a small ambient room. Off-time signatures abound on this piece, certainly making it the most progressive track on Maybe Dreamers. Across the album vocals are wonderfully transparent, direct and to the point by which you can hear the breath and every tonal nuance.
Flicker closes the album, in a bit of a Floydian fashion. A resolving ending focusing on all that really matters is our relationships. Maybe Dreamers is one of the best underdog albums of 2019 and is certainly one not to overlook, it sounds incredible, with writing that excels at engaging the listener and certainly worthy of your ears.
John Fowler comments, “I’m so pleased with this record! Maybe Dreamers reflects our growing confidence and just has more of everything! It’s punchier, darker, proggier in places, yet lighter and more accessible in others. It’s a varied record that hangs together beautifully.”
CD or Hi-Res 48k / 24-bit download through BandCamp.