Jules Shear

Dreams Don't Count

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While the quirky popmeister who fronted Jules & the Polar Bears evolved into a more contemplative and serious-minded songwriter some years back, Jules Shear's tenth album, 2006's Dreams Don't Count, still came as something of a surprise in its sadly beautiful documentation of a landscape of broken hearts and busted dreams. Beginning with the bitterly rueful "Bad Connection," a spare but indelible portrait of a relationship on its last legs, Dreams Don't Count features a dozen songs for a rainy day, with little sunlight poking through this litany of love that failed and wishes that failed to come through. While the downbeat tone of Dreams Don't Count rarely lifts, it also ranks with some of Shear's finest work; his wordplay is masterful ("I've still got a picture of you/But it's not you anymore" cuts to the quick of an affair turned sour, and "I love you wherever I am today" is a telling description of how old love can uncomfortably linger long past its sell-by date), the primarily acoustic arrangements (frequently accompanied by a small string section) set off the melodies beautifully, and the passage of time has worn Shear's slightly froggy voice into an instrument that expresses sorrow with heartbreaking clarity. For all the sadness of Dreams Don't Count, this isn't an album about callow self-pity, but a mature reflection upon the little ways life can take an unexpected turn, and where those detours can lead. If it isn't always fun, it's also richly perceptive and truly beautiful, and it's as satisfying as anything Shear has ever released.

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