Ever since I was a little kid, I haven’t been a fan of elementary school teachers. In third grade I said something I probably shouldn’t have and my teacher told me to wash my mouth out with soap. I complied, and after letting her know as much she sent me to the principal’s office. That made me really angry, and my relationship with teachers was never the same. So, when Dream Version sent me this record and let me know that the foursome met as teachers at the same elementary school, I was prepared to hate each song more than the next.
Instead, I found it quite appealing and fun. My faith that there are some good teachers out there has been restored. The music often has a heavy 60’s pop/psych vibe, reminiscent of Of Montreal (but not as weird), or the now-defunct bluesy Chicago band The Redwalls. The songs never overstay their welcome and the record is tracked for a nice flow with mostly uptempo tunes.
The standouts on Beginners are Alec Jensen’s vocals and Eric Brummitt’s guitar. On “Hard Of Hearing,” Jensen enunciates like The Shins frontman James Mercer, and the music behind him doesn’t shy away from that kind of sound. The lyrics here are also some of the strongest on the record: “Ten thousand filled seats cheered for my twenties, when I graced the stage. Then empty rows left room for hopes that I’d improve with age. Now decades later, yellow newspaper proves I had my day.”
The only song that feels a little out of place is the 80’s-influenced “Angela J.” Not that there aren’t 80’s influences anywhere else, but the synth-heavy pop here actually sounds ripped straight from the past. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember the name of the song that it reminds me of right now. Still a good song, but I think the band probably could have cut it from this release and just put it out as a single.
I’m always amazed by the talented people that live all around me in the city of Chicago, and Dream Version is another in a long list of bands that need to be heard. If you have a few minutes, head over to their bandcamp page and listen to Beginners. You can also hear it on Spotify if you’d rather.