Hot Dreams arrived almost exactly three years after the release of Timber Timbre's breakthrough Creep on Creepin' On, a set whose high-drama darkness predicted the Lynchian feel that seeped into a lot of indie music released after it (including David Lynch's own albums). Grander and more ambitious, the band's fifth album may also be even more surreal than its predecessor. It's certainly one of the most singular-sounding albums issued in 2014. Where the band mined rockabilly and doo wop to otherworldly, lonesome effect on Creep on Creepin' On, here they explore the underbelly of psychedelic rock, lounge, soul, and country in ways that are just as unsettling but more urbane-sounding. "Curtains?!" tops its gritty rhythm section with trippy synths and hovers somewhere between ominous and hallucinatory; "Grand Canyon" and "Run from Me" build spaghetti Western balladry to operatic heights; and the instrumental "Resurrection Drive Part II" allows the album's sparkling, uneasy arrangements and instrumentation a turn in the spotlight. Hot Dreams' sounds are so striking that it's easy to forget that Timber Timbre have an equally vivid way with words. The album's opening panorama of destruction and decay, "Beat the Drum Slowly," is majestic enough with its portentous drums, flutes, and vibraphone, but Taylor Kirk's imagery of "celluloid ashes" and "yards marked by emerald coffins" elevates it into something epic. Seductive corruption and menace wend their way through all of Hot Dreams, from the brilliantly cynical "Bring Me Simple Men," which combines spy movie theme intrigue with dazzling wordplay ("Every big shot is a hunter/Every hunter's got his prey/You can tell me I'm a good sport/But that doesn't make me game"), to "This Low Commotion"'s curdled love, which throws the strange purity of Creep on Creepin' On's backwoods devotion into even sharper relief. It all culminates on Hot Dreams' title track, where Kirk croons "I want to follow up on all my threats and promises to you, baby" over syrupy, longing soul, capturing the light and shadow of a relationship the way that few others besides Bill Callahan can. Throughout the album, Kirk is as versatile and committed as an actor, which goes a long way toward ensuring that the styles and poses Timber Timbre adopt feel genuine from moment to moment. While Hot Dreams is slightly less immediate than Creep on Creepin' On, its potent cocktail of menace, glamour, and vulnerability is nothing less than transporting.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares