Album Review: Devon Welsh 'Dream Songs'
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Devon Welsh is the quintessential independent artist—he’s self-made and free of the parameters set forth by a record label. In fact, at the peak of its popularity, Welsh decided to disband Majical Cloudz in what many initially considered a bold yet frustrating move. Considering that the project’s multiplying reputation would have brought increased involvement with the music industry, the surprising decision makes sense in hindsight as it would have compromised Welsh’s yeoman demeanor. While some musicians try to diversify their sound in order to remain relevant to listeners’ tastes, there are musicians like Welsh creating art that relish in the reticence of sound and the clarity of words, which is no less true with his strikingly melancholic debut solo album aptly titled, Dream Songs.
Spurning the minimal electronic blueprint that became synonymous with the enrapturing nature of Majical Cloudz, Welsh elects to embellish his sentimentally profound baritone with organic arrangements spruced by rushes of verdant string sections throughout the entirety of Dream Songs. With an atmosphere that’s both surreal and consoling, Welsh offers an experience that’s sonically more devastating and tranquilizing than anything created under the Majical Cloudz moniker.
Lyrically, Dream Songs finds the Canadian artist with a considerably positive outlook on life while traversing the chasm between cynical reality and a romantic dream state. Exploring themes of being alive, impending death, love, time fleeting, and the stresses of living in the moment, Welsh wears his heart and soul heavily on his sleeve while daring his listeners to do the same when life has dealt a spoiled hand. While his words are often left in the abstract, Welsh’s musings are incredibly intimate and indicative of someone who has learned to love and cherish life’s mundane moments.
With an ominous whirr of strings dissolving beneath playful pizzicato, listeners are immediately cloaked by the reveries and coinciding fears of self-autonomy in the opening track “By The Daylight.” “When you see an insect/ Don't try to squash it,” Welsh sagaciously sings. “Things more powerful than you/ Control the actions in your life.” When life feels out of control, sometimes there are no answers for this inescapability, “it feels like we’re just swept along in a tide we don’t really understand, and this song is about experiencing that feeling,” Welsh disclosed in a press release. While the track expresses concern, there’s undoubted bravery through it all. This sense of courage bleeds into the song “Summer Ends,” a track that upends the idea of idleness yet cherishes the “moment.” Similar themes are found in the smoldering elation of “Vampires,” “What are we doing here hanging on a dark night?/What are we doing here, this town's a vampire...So we're moving on.”
While Welsh expresses a desire to treasure the transience of living, its elusiveness portends a darker state of mind on the track “Comedian.’ With first few lines, Welsh paints a lamentable portrait of death and depression, ‘A comedian died tonight/Beside my bed, coughing in the moonlight/Oh, how he didn't want to go/His face was painted white and he cried/ "Lord, let me live another life.’” Toying with paradoxes, “A joke that's killing everyone,” Welsh depicts a comedian on its deathbed, clenching on to life. Though he pleads to God for a second chance at living, the comedian is conflicted and yearns to be freed from the pressures of false happiness. As the comedian weeps in his white face paint, Welsh’s stirring depiction induces shivers and tears. Enhancing the track’s religious experience, Welsh's voice broods like an ancient chant while the billowing instrumentation throbs around his vocals. Although “Comedian” is a gravely solemn encounter, it’s a sobering reminder of the fragility of life.
With Dream Songs inching closer and closer to blissful devastation with each track, listeners are transported by the swelling magnificence of “ I’ll Be Your Ladder.” An austere ode to the prevailing majesty of love, “I’ll Be Your Ladder” is an intimate art-pop masterpiece and one of the most stunning pieces of music you will hear all year. Welsh’s vocals waltz between different pitches, personifying the ebb and flow of ascending strings above and ethereal saxophone below, “I am changing/ And I know I want to...Be your ladder,” Welsh chants. “With love's elation/ In your eyes/ I'll be your ladder/ While you're changing.” The proverbial linchpin to Dream Songs, “I’ll Be Your Ladder” is a deepening display of Welsh’s songwriting ability since Majical Cloudz—it’s incredibly minimal yet communicates a grandeur feeling of being on the cusp of something revelatory—a reason to keep living and to keep loving.
Dream Songs is a balm for the soul—it’s both purifying and pacifying. Though It doesn’t necessarily make you happy, Welsh’s debut endeavor negotiates the fears and worries dwelling within while pushing the simple but needed message of love. If you rarely weep when listening to an album, Welsh’s capsizing string sections and sincere vocal fluctuations will succeed in devastating your entire being—it will at once, strips you of the strength to live yet gives you every reason to keep living. Though it still saddens many that Majical Cloudz ceased to exist, the project’s dispersal has brought to light, the singularity of Devon Welsh and his debut solo record Dream Songs, a poignant collage pertinent to the healing of whatever pain it is you endure.
THE 405 RATING: 9/10