Herman Dune's Everloving Records debut Next Year in Zion reportedly marks the first album that head Herman Dune David Ivar has written while he was happy. It certainly shows, as many of these songs are practically bursting with love and good cheer. In other hands, unabashedly lovestruck fare like "On a Saturday," "My Best Kiss," and "When the Sun Rose Up This Morning" might come off trite, but the Dunes approach them with such warmth and unaffected sweetness that it's easy to be won over. Not everything here is so unrelentingly sunny, but there is an endearingly shambolic, lived-in quality to David-Ivar's sappily prosaic narratives and quirky slant rhymes that reflects a persistent, modest optimism in the face of irrational fears ("Baby Is Afraid of Sharks"), awkward roommate situations ("Afternoon Dance Party"), the fugitive criminal lifestyle ("Lovers Are Waterproof"), and even environmental devastation ("Poison in the Rain.") The music reflects that lyrical positivity with a laid-back, infectious charm that draws on American folk forms (with occasional calypso, mariachi, klezmer, and flamenco accents) and also harkens back to '50s and '60s pop in way a reminiscent of Jonathan Richman and Jens Lekman. Beyond the Richman/Lekman-esque core duo, Next Year in Zion is fleshed out with percussion from El Doctor Schönberg, girl group backing vocals by the Babyskins, the N'awlins flavor of the Jon Natchez Bourbon Horns, and electric guitar solos courtesy of the Wave Pictures' Dave Tattersall. Though it initially comes off as fairly slight, this reveals itself to be a rewarding, idiosyncratic effort that bears repeated listens; a pleasure from start to finish.
AllMusic Review by K. Ross Hoffman