Sincerity is one of the sought after qualities in a musician to their audience, and for themselves. You can have the most heartfelt lyrics over beautiful arrangements, but if no one believes you mean it you may as well be James Blunt singing about his cornflakes or whatever. The performance of both the music and vocals of Dear Reader’s third album seem supremely convicted and well grounded but scratch the surface and some of the lustre is lost.
Dear Reader a.k.a. Cheri MacNeil is the alt-pop songstress, born in Johannesburg but now resides in Berlin. She sounds like a well formed mixture of many of her contemporaries, specifically Emmy The Great, Regina Spektor with a nugget of early Kate Bush. Her crystalline sound is backed by well considered and tightly arranged songs with a well used variety of instrumentation. The resulting sound is a slightly childlike Feist-esque sound, or perhaps Dream Pop without the shoegaze.
The problem comes when you go back round for second listen of Idealistic Animals; The inital intrigue wears off and your ears quickly begin to pick apart the weave. All of the songs have preposterous title with Hail To The Thief style ‘alt’-titles after them. However in this case, none of the Radiohead mystery is here just twee confusion and over extended metaphors. There are a lot of animals replacing fears and waves covering over real personal experience. There is clearly a lot of meaning in this album, to its author but it gets lost in milieu of metaphors and imagery.
The other fundamental issue is the lack of drama and theatrial arc to the album. If this album is meant to be telling a story, and that impression is unavoidable, the there should be sense of a journey, that you started somewhere and ended up somewhere else, or at least moved from the place you started at. A lot of the tempos and dynamics are the same and at times it blends into one.
I am not tyring to say this album is bad. It’s not. It is a pleasure to listen to and very well made, and on the first listen I was really very excitied and intrigued to get to know the album. But once it started to sink in you start to realise that the glitter soon rubs off. If perhaps you had some real directly-relateable lyrics, less of astronauts and bears then you could step into her world but as it is, you feel like you’re standing on the side lines of collage from inside MacNeil’s mind. Enjoyable. For a while.
Released on 9th January 2011 by City Slang