For a man who's been plying his trade for over 25 years, it's kind of strange that Emancipated Hearts is Dean Wareham's first solo recording. But, given the stripes he's earned as the frontman of revered dreampoppers Galaxie 500 and the lesser loved Luna, there's little chance of finding a naively coined debut record here.
Emancipated Hearts is as expertly crafted as you'd expect from someone of Wareham's heft. This mini-LP embodies the world-wearied experiences of its creator, exploring darker themes through a series of slow, winding sonic arrangements. It's not a sad album—far from it—but a deep-seated sense of vulnerability writhes through each tenderly sculpted number.
Opener "Love Is Colder Than Death" is the first indication of Wareham's step into a more fragile world. A gorgeous and warm country-flecked lament, its deft keystrokes and melancholic strings allow Wareham to dig up his emotional roots. The acoustic shiver "The Longest Bridges In the World" is just as stirring, exuding a comfort-from-the-storm aesthetic that recalls Damien Jurado at his most abyssal.
Produced by Jason Quever, the Papercuts frontman who's also had a hand in producing Beach House, this is a sublimely finished collection. Each cut has been given space to breathe under Wareham's brittle intone. Notably, "The Ticking Is the Bomb" barely stirs from its slumber of piano and strum, yet evolves as one of the record's most affecting moments.
A spacious cover of The Incredible String Band's "Air" closes the record out on a gorgeous shimmer of chiming guitar, leaving a swelling optimism cradled in the eardrums. It may have taken more than a quarter of a century to come to fruition, but this lack of hurry is exactly what makes Dean Wareham's first solo outing so stirring.
First published here for Under the Radar