Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
When I visited the home page of Ian & The Dream, the band behind the new indie effort ‘California Cauliflower,’ I saw assorted photos of him with Brian Wilson and other Beach Boys. That photo of Ian Ash and Brian Wilson says infinitely more than any biography ever could: this is a California record with some serious vibes. As a massive Beach Boys fan, I’m quite excited for Ash’s effort.
What would happen if you combined sunny beach styles, slap bass, and irresistible harmonies? Check out ‘California Cauliflower’ and you’ll know. ‘Girl From California,’ the opening song of the lengthy set, embraces all of these elements in perfect bliss. I haven’t heard an indie band tackle this style in such a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it done properly. Ian & The Dream remarkably revives the beach-rock genre with immense vigor.
One element of this sound is the lyricism. It has to be smart and witty, but lighthearted and exciting. Ash nails it perfectly with songs like ‘Steppin’ On My Shoes’ and ‘That’s Love.’ My goodness, the Beach Boys are strong with that latter track. I do want to mention something important: I keep talking of the pinnacle Californian band because Ian & The Dream assume the role in a contemporary fashion so well. Their sound is still surprisingly original and stands on its own two feet without any comparisons. Making comparisons is just my job as a critic; I have to find relatable lines to draw for audiences.
‘Wind Up When It’s Done’ grabs the reigns for an acoustic-powered love ballad. This classy tune is one of my personal favorites: it’s so genuine and sweet. The piano-driven ‘Keeps Me Running’ has similar energy. At thirteen tracks, this album does run into a bit of an issue with the blending of songs. Ash nails his sound, but he doesn’t experiment far past it after he finds his groove. Thus, the thirteen tracks meld together in a spray of ocean breezes. There are some unusual highlights, however, such as the saxophone on ‘Keeps Me Running.’
The emotional core of ‘California Cauliflower’ is ‘Thank You Girl.’ This beautiful serenade is simply stunning. Skip straight to this track if you want to understand Ash’s sound and musical personality. It’s been a very long time since I heard such a good pop love song. Ash’s lead vocals are beyond comparison. He commands your attention and stands as a strong modern frontman.
‘California Cauliflower’ is a wonderful rollercoaster of good vibrations. If we’re utilizing our Beach Boys comparison, though, Ian & The Dream are pre-Pet Sounds. Their music is not emotionally or musically rich enough to stand poignantly, with the exception of ‘Thank You Girl,’ a track that shows the most promise of the bunch. It’s a notable effort that will be a pivotal stepping stone to something more meaningful. Reaching a higher level of songwriting should be the primary focus of their future efforts. The sound is there, it’s time to harness it into something powerful.
Check out Ian & The Dream online: http://www.ianandthedream.com/