As a teenager in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I often wished I’d been born a generation earlier so that I could’ve hitched a ride to the Haight and grooved to Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company and the many happenin’ bands that played the Avalon Ballroom, Fillmore Auditorium and other venues in San Francisco, plus attend Monterey Pop. But now that I’m on the downslope of middle age, I sometimes find myself yearning to be young again if only to enjoy the sumptuous sonic stews served up by a slew of young(er) artists and bands without feeling like the old man in the room.
Which leads me to today’s pick, Dream Machine. It’s a bittersweet brew concocted by Denver-based singer-songwriters Paige Duché and Ross Ryan, who came together a few years back after Duché covered one of Ryan’s songs in a video; they dubbed themselves Lucy Daydream as an homage to the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” In today’s niche-driven world, their sound is likely labeled “psych-pop” (aka “psychedelic-pop”) but, really, it’s more than that due to the neo-soul elements that flow just beneath the surface of most songs. The music is staccato and sinewy, slightly psychedelic, and a perfect complement to Duché’s clipped yet expansive delivery, which reminds me of Nelly Furtado’s at times. Add in the lyrics, which shed light on the dark recesses of the mind, and…wow. Just wow.
The album opens with “Drippy,” a deep dive into indecision that’s accented by finger snaps, moody keys and a tempo that spirals faster and faster until it doesn’t.
“Can’t Stop Your Addiction” is a damning indictment of the sickness that is drug addiction, which often finds folks promising one thing while doing the opposite. “Cruel” could well be about “mumble pop,” though it’s actually about one-on-one interactions and the games people too often play; either/or, as Van Morrison explained during “Gloria” when I saw him decades ago, one needs to enunciate! (That advice works in all settings, by the way, not just on stage.) “Feeling Good” is a welcome burst of optimism. The affecting “Pools,” on the other hand, is a deep dive into an anxiety attack—or maybe just a bad trip. “Tell me why I feel afraid/Why I can’t catch my breath/My mind is playing tricks on me/Can’t make my thoughts connect…” It’s followed by “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” which delves even deeper into the darkness.
“Coldwater,” for its part, is a welcome light in the darkness. The haunting “Ghosts” is another atmospheric number, while the closing “1000 Days” digs deep into dreamland for answers to life’s perplexing questions.
In short, Dream Machine sports a combustible engine that fires on all cylinders throughout its 10 songs. I planned to end here with a (admittedly cheap) joke about how the “psych” in “psych-pop” could well be short for psychology, as the album does play like therapy in spots, but that shortchanges Lucy Daydream’s accomplishment. It’s a powerful set. As I’m apt to say, give it a go.