By Jason Shoff
Maybe it’s just me, but nowadays it seems like the indie music scene is riding high on a wave of jangly guitars and vintage analog-sounding synths. Whether modeling their sound after the synth-pop hits of the ‘80s or molding their songs around the various styles of that decade’s college rock scene, it seems as though the Reagan decade is the muse of a good chunk of up-and-coming indie bands, a well from which they’re repeatedly turning to for inspiration. And now we can add Grand Rapids’ Dear Tracks to that list.
Originally hailing from Florida, frontman Matt Messore formed his newest band upon arriving to the Great Lake State several years ago with keyboardist Victoria Ovenden, bassist Jacob Juodawlkis and drummer Alex Militello. Now, after releasing a 7” single early last year, Dear Tracks’ have kicked off 2016 by dropping their debut EP, Soft Dreams. After one listen, their music is definitely mellow, a perfect soundtrack to a nice sunny afternoon. This is especially true of opening track “Moment of Clarity,” which sounds like what would happen if Echo and the Bunnymen spent an afternoon listening to Pet Sounds. Lo-fi, full of reverb and concluding with a tambourine-powered coda, this beachy track is a perfect summer song, castanets and all.
Opening as if it were the theme song to an ‘80s PBS children’s show, “All the Outs Are Free” is the most upbeat track on the EP, sounding like R.E.M. by way of Ryan Adams’ Rock and Roll album (albeit laced with keyboards that sound like they were pulled from “Wonderful Christmastime”). Following track “Alive” is, sadly, not a cover of Pearl Jam’s classic anthem, but a short 2:15 burst of backwards guitar bookended Brit Pop. In fact, it sounds pretty much like a warped version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” with some added John Squire-inspired fretwork and a chorus straight out of Johnny Marr’s playbook.
Soft Dreams then closes with its title track, and with its Smiths atmospherics and R.E.M. chorus, it’s easy to see why the band decided to close the EP with this song. But it also shows that Dear Tracks is a promising young band that’s still trying to find its footing, that’s still trying to take its array of influences and use them to create a sound (and an identity) that’s truly their own. And while each song has a moment or two that will make your ears perk up, nothing really stays with you long afterwards, either. Having said that, though, Soft Dreams definitely shows enough potential to make Dear Tracks a band that one needs to keep their eye on going forward.