You are great. Do not stop, ever.
Before we get into this album review I would like to provide a summary – so I will. Dear Seattle has delivered an album packed with golden tracks and hidden treasures. Some songs may take a while to hit your favourites list (or at least for me), such as “Try” and others are instant classics, one may cite “Let Me Bleed”.
Now, call their style what you like but it is unequivocally Australian and whilst a worldly influence is nothing to be scoffed at, it is endearing to acknowledge from the first word that this is a product of a group of Australians jamming out. It screams ‘Pub Punk’.
Preemptively I will say there are similarities to be drawn in terms of tone in the album where listeners may start to notice similarities with another artist. I found this album’s guitar tones, thematic references, and even some riffs to be reminiscent of Violent Soho’s work. The comparison between the two is in no way a dig, but I can see the groups in a comparable light. I found this to be noteworthy given that, Don’t Let Go is the first full-length album of Dear Seattle to be put out through Domestic La La; a record company headed by that of Violent Soho guitarist, James Tidswell.
Having released “Daytime TV” and “Maybe” as singles from the upcoming Don’t Let Go album, Dear Seattle set a sturdy base for what is undoubtedly a long-awaited release for longtime fans of the four-piece rockers. Onwards, to our track by track rundown of Dear Seattle’s debut album, Don’t Let Go.
When I’m Gone
Our introduction to this album begins with an aura of mellowed familiarity. It’s been a while since an album release and they make it an occasion with this tame track to get us back into the swing of things; or rather, you think it’s going to be a tame song. As the simple riff repeats at its onset, we are reintroduced to that familiar Australian twang in the vocals of Brae Fisher that have become synonymous with their sound. As hinted at prior, this track unfurls to be anything but leisurely; instead, it becomes a high energy bop that reinstates the thematic composition, brazen lyrics and full forward integrity of a band we have come to know have many a trick up their sleeve.
An absolute slam of a track, the format is extremely well done. There is a structured repetition of a catchy chorus mixed in with raw vocals, again, this is indicative of Dear Seattle’s grungy angst. Using this track as an introduction is a well thought out move in that it sets a solid tone for what is to come without giving away too much. That is to say that, whilst this is a fun track to begin the album with – it serves as an entree more than the main course.
“I’m havin’ more fun when I’m livin’ off nothin’.”
The first single released off Don’t Let Go back in 2018, here we have a solid song that references the preferences we hold in our everyday lives. There is a theme of aversion throughout; aversion of the norm, that is. The vocalist reinstates his position on the widely accepted societal standards of higher education, financial success, and how these aspects of life may indeed benefit certain individuals, though not necessarily him and his preferred lifestyle. Indeed, there is fun to be had in putting off the enforced responsibilities of our society, yet, we still attempt, or rather, feel inclined to remain a part of it. However, this track displays another side of the fun by indulging us in the risk that comes from indecisiveness through it’s repeated chorus.
“Now I bum around. It’s just another cheap round on the comedown, thinkin’ maybe, maybe, maybe.”
A classic pub yell styled “Da Da Da Da” bridge leads us home to the final chorus repeat; a fantastic way to produce hype before the ending, urging the audience to sing along. I would note, these easy sing-alongs are a recurring theme throughout, Don’t Let Go and in so doing they allow themselves multiple chances for crowd interaction towards familiar and unfamiliar crowds alike. It’s impossible to mess up “Da Da Da Da” unless you’re 12 beers deep which in the case of a Dear Seattle gig, I suppose you may well be. Perhaps, my point is moot.
Well, the song is unsurprisingly catchy and again, I would repeat that there is a seemingly substantial amount of thought behind the arrangement of this track. However, I do not so much reference the placement of the song on the album but more so its release as a single. “Maybe” has stark points of familiarity to longtime Dear Seattle fans and serves as a good representation that the band has not lost touch with their groove.
“You’re like cheap wine to my Channel 9.”
One after the other, here we have the second single released off the album. Meeting us with energy, vibrancy and anarchy, “Daytime TV” takes a strengthened approach to self-analysis. This song continues with another classic “Da Da Da!” singalong that is of course, extremely easy for a crowd to get around.
How this instrumental is presented displays a contrast in tone between its lyrical content (tackling anxiety as well as attempts of self-explanation to others) and upbeat instrumentation. Dear Seattle express so much personality through this song and present us with the first of a few choice references that are splayed throughout the album. I found myself fawning at the tongue in cheek jab of taking life lessons from Dr Phil. Indeed, light-hearted references give the listener a chance to separate from the serious content of the song – if only for a moment – and meld back to the instrumental, so there is a well-balanced middle ground.
In terms of drum pace, guitar tone, and backing vocals I drew a similarity to a mesh of skate punk and surf rock. Indeed, the bass is present enough to provide a pleasant musical balance, however, at this point, (though admittedly early on) I was wondering if the bass would ever get its moment in the spotlight.
Vocally raw and staunch, Brae Fisher’s pipes blend seamlessly into an otherwise energetically romanticised track (“I have to understand; love is about dreams”).
Real topics, TV references and catchiness. Winner, winner, bin chicken dinner – what a track.
Bigger Than My Brain
Well, well, well. This track pulls no punches, messes around with no one and forwardly catapults you into the den of the upbeat. Riffage ensues as the amalgamation of guitars and drums protrude out of your speakers and into your ear holes.
Culture references – a rather important topic mentioned in the previous song of the album. Indeed, friends this song has a fair share too. As soon as you can fit, ‘Jetstar’ into a song, you have won me over. References aside, this track does well as a standalone piece.
“It’s just, just anxiety. You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, in a little while.”
Truthfully, the song is thoughtful in its approach as it’s one of the starkest tracks on the album. The lyrical contents of this song are compelling. One might even say, this impact owes itself to the fantastically written instrumental that is exceptionally presented by the guitars melody and passionate drums – thus supporting the emotional stamina throughout. There is a notion of self-reassurance towards the inevitable realisation that everything will work out in the end for our protagonist.
Now, I had mentioned prior that some aspects of this album brought me to connote a resemblance to that of Violent Soho. The ending of “Bigger Than My Brain” is one such connotation. From 2:14 onwards the guitars hit me with a barrage of familiarity from their tone, to their strum, all the way to the drawn-out backing riff. However, this is in no way a negative aspect. Additionally, this is, of course, a personal correlation. Others may not hear such a resemblance, but I found it noteworthy as Violent Soho is seemingly a rather large inspiration for the boys in Dear Seattle.
“Take me from this airborne coffin.”
The crunchy guitar tones meet with a fuzzed bass in the background that set the stage for another good round of gang vocals to finish it off. This song is a blast.
“I need medicine to wake me up, ’cause in my head, I’m not good enough.”
“Homegrown” is one of my favourite songs from the album, even purely in a lyrical sense of being relatable. The introductory theme is simple; get drunk, party, spend all your money, wake up in a place unfamiliar and lonely feeling as if you haven’t made a connection with anyone.
There are multiple references throughout the song that point towards rather extreme social anxiety. Additionally, I note a distinct feeling of self-aggression and annoyance at one’s seemingly hopeless attempts to fit in without feeling taken for granted or instead, not wanted at all.
“Speaking up again when it’s not my turn.”
I’m a huge fan of using drum stick clicks as a supporting instrument. Though only for a brief few moments in the introductory verse, being able to strip back certain instruments shows an awareness of what will make specific aspects of a song stand out. During the end half of this head nodding song, we get one hell of a cool guitar solo that again accentuates Dear Seattle’s ability to have serious topics blended with ecstatically vibrant and upbeat tracks. It’s an incredibly catchy song that deals with the idea of dancing with your vices whilst a self-analysis points to self-consciousness in trying to realise one’s insecurities.
“You and I, never seem to fall in line. Never seeing eye to eye and today’s no different.”
This song had me hooked from its introduction. The mellowed riff set a serene scene of what we immediately know to be an earnest message. The drums come in supporting the vocal in a minimalistic beat whilst we get a good taste of some melodious guitar.
The bass, there it is! I wouldn’t have thought that the bass would shine in a rather genial track, how wrong I was. The bass comes through clearly and demonstrates remarkably well-done support for the high ends of the tune. Throughout the fantastically written chorus, (which repeats rather frequently during this song) I found myself tuning into the combination of the vocal and bass as a focal point.
Towards the end of the track, the guitars get fairly ethereal in their backing melodies and provide an auditory induced visual of authentic passion. We have what seems to be set up as a love song, that relishes in disagreeability. It is an ostensible ode to the frustration that one faces when love, or the possibility of love, turns into an acceptance of hopelessness.
Indeed, it is a real treat when you see a band that you have a preconception of, produce something otherworldly to your understanding of what that group appears to be – even more so when it turns out to be damn good. The format of the song is not unique to Dear Seattle; in fact, I can picture the classic music video for this being a band looking a little out of place while suited up on a stage for a high school dance. Nonetheless, it works phenomenally as a break in pace for the album that allows listeners to readjust for a moment.
Frankly, I would say I have no doubts that this would be a fantastic opportunity for audience interaction. The song is slow-paced enough to gauge the lyrics on the first listen and the repeating chorus is a fantastic ode to love tragedy which is sure to tug at some heartstrings. Hell, despite the lyrical content, someone might even propose to this song.
“Everybody’s trying on a fake face, hoping that a name change will get what they need.”
“Try” is a song that wholeheartedly favours relationships over typically noted evils of societal value, that being greed and glutton. I did not find this track to be that striking upon the first few listens, however, it grew on me to the point where I was clapping along internally towards the end.
Initially, I was unsure of this track as the melody didn’t necessarily pique my interest as other songs on, Don’t Let Go had done prior. I found the layout to be quite basic for the first half of this track, there was a lack of intrigue. Though, I willingly and gladly concede that the second half was a much more involved and dramatically composed instrumental representation of angst and attitude.
The lyricism is to be noted, as there is an essential indication of appreciating the relationships you have and holding them in higher regard than finance and greed. There is stressed importance on the crucial need for mutual emotional upkeep of relationships, romantic or platonic alike – a quintessential lesson all must eventually learn.
I like the song, but I don’t love it. However, in saying that, I do not see this as detracting from anything I had listened to so far. Oh, one must not forget, having a clap-along in your song is pretty damn nifty.
Let Me Bleed
“I’m so scared your heart’s not there.”
Friends, this song right here is fantastic. “Let Me Bleed” is undoubtedly my number one pick for best song on the album. It ticked every box for me in terms of pacing, format, tone, lyricism and straight up groove – and it did so with flare.
So. Much. Energy. Here we have a fantastic display of Dear Seattle’s ability to provide us with a variety of approaches to typically depressing topics by flipping the music on its head. There is a recurring riff introduced early on which eventually coalesces with the gang vocals later in the track – what a fantastic use of recall, it’s a great way to instil familiarity of the riff which some listeners will inevitably be whistling in their everyday life.
“I don’t want to break your heart if I’m too broke to shout my round
let alone give you what you need.”
The lyrics seemingly infer that our protagonist is self-conscious and afraid that the person to whom they are referring will cease to love them due to their finances and damaged self-worth. There is a notion of condition for love in that our protagonist concedes a feeling of defeat in the thought of never being able to give their other, the life they feel they should have. We see this hopelessness in the vocal comparison of ones love to a diamond and oneself to nothing of the sort. However, our protagonist does not give up; instead, there is a reassurance to their partner that they will do whatever it takes to give them the life they feel they deserve.
The drums had me hopelessly attempting to drum along while harmonising with these fantastically written vocals. The melodies had me doing air guitar, but I stuck to air bass because I thought it would be easier. Now, in actual reference to the bass, it’s superb – it comes through so well on this track and balances everything out.
If this song doesn’t become a fan favourite, it will genuinely surprise me. There are so many aspects to this track that command crowd interaction. I would be hard done by not to sing along.
Broke and Hungry
“This life’s unfair, my minds right here and yours is over there.”
“Broke and Hungry” starts us off with more crunchy guitar tones balanced with a structured bass, which then intertwines with snippets of melodic leads in the background.
The lyrical direction seemingly references the balance of passion and responsibility, as well as learning about what people think of you. The ultimately hurtful way of being viewed as if you’re not doing enough, or indeed, not being what the other person wants can be maddening. At times, what comes to pass is a realisation that both individuals lives are simply heading in different directions.
The instrumental supports this theme well providing a balance of grungy rhythm guitars and clean leads. All in all, it is a well-produced song that sets out to kick some arse and it does just that.
A Modest Mind
“A Modest Mind” provided another example of some fervent Violent Soho vibes. The tones and riffs throughout sounded quite reminiscent of Violent Soho’s, WACO album in their composition. Additionally, the droning high pitched guitar in the background gave a few nods to Violent Soho’s expert use of warped noises to evoke emotion and ambience in their audience. That said, this is an original song that I very much enjoyed. It’s just a bit of fun to notice what comes across as inspiration in the music of other bands, then again, seemingly everything is derivative of everything in life so, who can win there? We have here, a song that is well worth a listen.
Lastly, for all that is good, you have to appreciate the tempo change at the end of this song. The structure is phenomenal and provides just enough of a break before launching into an unforgiving punk clause that may cause you to double take whether you are still listening to Dear Seattle.
I Keep Dreaming
“I’ll keep dreaming; I’ll float beyond my ceiling and out of this earth for our first official meeting.”
Our last song, here we are. The crisp tones of the guitar are melded effortlessly with a change in tone from vocalist, Brae Fisher, as we delve into this song of heartache and moving on from loss.
This song concerns intense passion and feeling as the pure, clean instrumental backs up the warm vocal tones. We get a well-placed crescendo throughout leading to our peak as we delve into the final singalong for this album. Listening to this last track created for me, a mental image of a crowd of people shouting back at Dear Seattle, “I don’t mind if I feel frightened now”.
Dear Seattle saved this song for the right time, as it is almost cinematic in its composition and purveys to us a real understanding of sadness and hurt. “I Keep Dreaming” is a genuinely moving track to end a varied and (what I find to be) a near perfect debut, full-length album.
Friends, readers, anyone whose eyes are looking at this page right now, this whole review is a long-winded way of me saying, ‘The album is great and you should listen to it’.
The album produces tracks that feel far more developed than that of prior releases. You still get the intense, groovy, angst-filled, boogie-laden bops that Dear Seattle are known to create. However, there is a notion of accentuated care and development.
If you’ve liked Dear Seattle before, be prepared to like them again – perhaps even love? Oooh, who knows?
Great work, a fantastic release and I am glad to have been able to review it.
A well-composed album that delves into some fantastically important topics. Great instrumentation. The mix is crispy. A wide variety of sing-alongs. Damn near perfect IMO.
I don’t think anything is ever perfect, as far as I can tell, though this is very close for me. I seemed only to have a quarrel with ‘Try.’ Only one clap-along, what a tease.