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The Shondes
My Dear One
Fanatic Records


Two years after their debut release, Brooklyn's The Shondes return with a new collection of songs, My Dear One, self-described as a breakup album. To begin with, the very idea of assembling a collection of songs entirely about loss, relationship endings, infidelity, and the like presents inherent challenges. Notably, how does one put together such a collection that equally gets the writer's emotional viewpoints across, without coming off as nothing more than unentertaining spite or overly earnest self-absorption. While the compositional process can be healthy and cathartic, the writer's process does not bear any direct relationship to that of the listening experience. And a song collection that may be very necessary for a band to put together for emotional reasons does not inherently make for an enjoyable audience experience. Such is the case here.

The problem with My Dear One isn't so much with the recording itself, but with the
fundamental construct of the album. The music is compositionally sparse, carried along more by an underpinning of violin; the drums are quiet, the guitar work simple and isolated enough in the mix to sound as if they were recorded in the bedroom by a young teen taking their first steps into home recording.

The result of keeping the simple instrumentation and arrangements is that the vocals are allowed to truly stand out front and center, which brings us to the real frustration with this album. Most of the lead vocals have been provided by Louisa Rachel Solomon, bassist for The Shondes, and the best way to describe her vocals is that they would probably translate wonderfully in a Broadway musical. At least on this record, if feels as if Louisa only has one mode of voice, the only variation to which is the volume, which changes depending on her varying ratio of anger to bitterness.

As an art school chamber pop record, it's competently executed. In fact, fans of Ra Ra Riot may very well enjoy aspects of it. But frankly, the template for this material was stamped far more impressively by Sinead O'Connor, on her searing recording of "Troy", the filter by which any other earnest, emotionally ragingly bitter breakup song should be viewed. By that standard, My Dear One falls short.

-Dave Meyer (mondogarage)

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