Dean Wareham's first full-length solo album, 2014's eponymously titled Dean Wareham, features production by My Morning Jacket's Jim James and an elegiac, lyrical tone. The album follows up Wareham's equally compelling 2013 five-song EP, Emancipated Hearts, and explores a similarly baroque and folk-pop-leaning sound with all the latitude offered by a full-length record. In that sense, the album fits nicely into Wareham's existing discography as the leader of bands like Galaxie 500, Luna, and Dean & Britta, the latter two being critically acclaimed projects with his wife and bassist, Britta Phillips (who appears here as well). While Wareham has always evinced a love of dewy-eyed '60s and '70s pop music, here he imbues his softly melodic, sweetly poignant, and often psychedelic sound with a somewhat regretful and sad tone. On the languid, torchy ballad "Love Is Not a Roof Against the Rain" (a reference to Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "Love Is Not All [Sonnet XXX]"), Wareham opines "I can hold the midnight in my hand/Spoken like a singer in a band/Everyone remembers what they want/Stories told to give their life a font/What have I done with my life?/What have I done with the keys?" Cooed against a backdrop of what sounds like an acoustic guitar-led death march in an Ennio Morricone spaghetti Western, the song lets Wareham (an avowed film fanatic) showcase his longstanding knack for combining his enigmatic personal reflections with grand, cinematic imagery. Even the album's most buoyant track, the leadoff single "Holding Pattern," finds Wareham contemplating a sense of stasis in his life. Thankfully, another of Wareham's trademark traits, his deadpan humor, is also on display here as he evokes the monotony of constant touring by juxtaposing the music he's listening to on his device with the locations he find himself in. He sings "Kansas, Boston, Toto, Journey, Foreigner and Styx/San Diego over Denver seventeen to six/Living in a holding pattern, this is not my voice/Stuck inside a drop-down menu, this is not my choice." Ultimately, although melancholy has always been Wareham's default musical disposition, here he delivers his sadness with a coy, charming half-smile.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar