Graham MacRae: Dundrearies

graham macrae, dundreariesSilver Lake favorite and LA native Graham MacRae unveils his first full length in four years on his most recent release Dundrearies. Offering up chops both figurative and literal, Dundrearies’ eleven tracks alternate between the solo singer/song writer perspective and four-piece, upbeat touring fare. It’s an excellent trade off, saving the somewhat alkaline vocal delivery on the more intimate numbers from grinding into monochrome.

Album opener, “Daddy Don’t Mind,” with its crunch and drone guitar work set against dark, relentless percussion sounds like the musical score to a track that didn’t quite make the final cut to the Arcade Fire’s Funeral. And though Mr. McRae’s vocals strip focus on particular tracks deeper in the album, they work perfectly with the intro, sparking intrigue for what Dundrearies may offer.

The alternation between light and dark comes into play immediately. Track two and single, “Game Changer,” tugs the audience in the direction opposite of what was originally implied. Swirling feminine backing vocals add an element of the bizarre, the otherworldly to a song that would have otherwise been slated for mediocrity. Then, to keep us on our toes, the BPM’s lift on “The Papers” and a sinister western picking pattern is employed, further ensconcing the listener in mystery.

It becomes clear on the fourth track, “Wait.” Dundrearies is pop music twisted in on itself, turned on its head and carefully orchestrated at that. While the music itself would insist a New American Weird bent, the lyrics scream legitimacy–Mr. MacRae rarely ventures into the poetic miasma of those artists more inclined towards substance abuse or angling towards the self-deprecation of the ‘tortured artist.’

Perhaps it’s diligence to craft that’s made this album so hard to box in. For instance, the title Dundreariesalone begs for hipster cred. If you haven’t gizoogled it yet, then you also haven’t caught the pun in the first paragraph. Dundrearies is the colloquial name for the oversized mutton chops popular circa 1860 (and currently in pretty much every college town with any decent indie/metal scene).

An album titled after facial hair!–that’s too easy, too obvious. Consider this: the term ‘Dundreary’ was made popular by the fictional character Lord Dundreary in a little play called Our American Cousin. While the play had quite the successful run back in its day, one questions if it would be remembered at all if it weren’t for the fact it was used by an actor also wildly popular for his era, John Wilkes Booth, to avenge the South. That’s how I prefer to think of this work with its sinister minor keys, elaborately orchestrated yet systematical minimalist approach. There’s a song beneath these songs, a story within these stories which requires the listener to dig a little deeper and digest for content in addition to the aromatic first taste.

Rating: 6.5/10
MP3: Graham MacRae “Daddy Don’t Mind”
Buy: iTunes