California songwriter Dylan Shearer's fourth album, Garagearray, opens with the paradoxically titled "Time to Go," a gently drifting tune made of shambling piano, woozy drums, and several tracks of Shearer's vocals all inching along, politely trying to keep up with each other. Recorded sometime in 2013, the song could pass for an outtake from the first Soft Machine album or a lost cut from Kevin Ayers or John Cale's pastoral solo work in the late '60s and early '70s. Though not hung up on the baroque tendencies of the time, much of the album follows the chamber pop blueprints set up by classic artists like Ayers, Cale, and Van Dyke Parks, delivered from a distance in a shy mumble but creating a lovely, lofty atmosphere to wander around in. The album swings from more wild-eyed sendups of Syd Barrett's introverted psychedelic folk such as "Everyone Accept You" to the more reserved melancholia of songs like "Barely by the Waterside." Shearer is joined by Thee Oh Sees bassist Petey Dammit and Comets on Fire drummer Noel von Harmonson, but despite their raging pedigrees, the rhythm section turns in subdued session work. The performances actually have the purposeful feel of a pickup band running through tunes they're just learning for an upcoming gig, not overly concerned with locking in as much as just getting the songs down. Garagearray's gorgeously sad compositions, loose presentation, and delicate atmospheres share the same insular feeling as the best moments of all the artists it immediately recalls, as well as Plush's somewhat overlooked 1998 masterpiece More You Becomes You or the offhanded Kinks demos and radio sessions that cropped up in the years following their '60s heyday. It's a brilliant work, and Shearer's understated tunes instantly evoke the same feeling as a stormy spring day, possibly experienced indoors while coming down from a strange night or just quietly watching the world go by outside.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas