Devon Welsh’s voice has a special hymnal quality to it. His raw lyricism adds to the naked quality that his vocal mixing tends emphasize, but there’s a feeling that his pleas could billow through a church and mimic a more heightened sense of reverb.
Somehow, the logical choice was to find cold electronic accompaniment (very much in the style of Suicide) for his project Majical Cloudz that brought that voice so much attention. Perhaps there’s some comparison between the unleashed screams of “Frankie Teardrop” and Welsh’s largest climactic high-range confessions, but the unique approach made them stand out in a crowd and made his simple ideas speak in a modern way.
In terms of solo material, Welsh has never really stopped and right around when this project disbanded I actually caught him play a DIY venue in Montreal doing all new solo songs that had nothing to do with anything he had put on wax (I don’t remember enough to know if these are them but I don’t think they are). Who does that? Majical Cloudz couldn’t necessarily have taken over the world, but they’re a solid buzz band that could’ve easily gotten a bunch of 20th anniversary pieces written about them.
There’s the sense that Welsh just wants to dramatically voice his cryptic thoughts till the end of time, without thinking about the audience, and as long as he keeps surrounding himself with tasteful sonic material, he will sound both out of time and urgent–and hopefully aid some young adult depression along the way.
Dream Songs sees Welsh singing over lavish, but not indulgent, folk landscapes. There’s ancient pianos and longing strings, and stirringly recorded guitar. There’s a bit more dynamicism in the texture. Rather than the militant pulsing that electronics tend to yield, here pristine silence develops into more lively places with shakers complemented by cascading, plucked strings. With Welsh’s stoic vocal presence, the silence is welcome and really lets the music breathe and envelop its listener.
Lyrically, Dream Songs feels less straightforward than previous material. Sure, there’s the simple beauty of single “I’ll Be Your Ladder,” which you can probably guess the meaning of from the title alone, but the album begins by addressing agency: “things more powerful than you control the action in your life,” then he delves into dreams, and a chorus reading simply “wasted by the daylight/floating in the twilight.” There’s the macro-level of control–we cannot control the motion of the earth or the sun–but then there’s the micro–the inner dream world that our subconscious makes for us that we must decipher. Questions of control extend to “Dreams Have Pushed You Around” where a relationship ends and neither party is at fault, but Welsh begs the question of how. It’s certainly not a concept album, but these late night ruminations make for a thought-provoking, introspective listen.
Devon Welsh’s name probably won’t ring out in the history books, but I don’t think he wants it to and Dream Songs benefits from this by placing the listener in his world with no notion of celebrity.