It’s hard to imagine that Brett Dennen has just released his fourth album and yet still hasn’t made heavy rotation anywhere, yet. Although some of his work has been featured on episodes of television shows such as Roadtrip Nation, Grey’s Anatomy, House and the Unit he is still somewhere on the outer edges of “well-known”. Prior studio releases include his self titled debut Brett Dennen (2004), sophomore release So Much More (2006) and 2008’s Hope For the Hopeless; all of which were well received and garnered some attention. His absolute refusal to sway with the wind towards any real genre has left him as something of an enigma, and hard to define.
Dennen’s latest release on Dualtone “Loverboy” is solid, and totally enveloping. It’s a well-written journey to the dark side of human emotion and back again. With his soft-spoken style and a penchant for a catchy chorus the album is a great listen, and keeps the audience on their toes with it variety.
The California barefooted-hippie with a shock of red hair and unfashionably oversized glasses considers this album to be a rebirth, he feels “as if this is the first album” he’s ever made, and truthfully it is a departure from his earlier works. By phone Brett explained that sometimes when things get uncomfortable and you are “pushing and pushing and eventually you come through on the other side where everything is fresh again”. This transformation is obvious with “Loverboy”, thank goodness he kept pushing.
Dancing At a Funeral is the musical equivalent of laughing through tears, delivering sadness with a smile and leaving the listener with a sense of hope as he points to the sun shining through the rain. “Strange but not surprising/now is it unfamiliar?/how it takes a death like this/to bring us together”. The realization that life should be a celebration, and should not only be noted at death is one of the clear standouts on the album.
Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog) will have you tapping your foot during the first listen, by the second it will be hard to not leave your seat and dance around. The play between lyric and catchy hook is inescapable and Dennen manages to capture the listener within the song, so that that we’re rooting for him – no matter what.
Sydney (I’ll Come Running) balances clever lyrics with simple songwriting and delivers with solid backing vocals that elevate the song perfectly. It’s a smooth ride, almost like a waterslide and it’s a little bit sad when the song is over.
Variety is in full force on this album, with powerhouse Luke Reynolds’ slide guitar on Walk Away Watch Me Burn, a blues tinged ballad of sorts, that accentuates the breadth of Dennen’s songwriting ability.
With the soulful magic keyboard fingers of Mr. Zac Rae who Dennen describes as “one of the most professional studio artists I’ve ever met” the vibe must have been amazing in the studio. Dave Wllder stepped in on bass and Pete McNeal on drums, and the chemistry of the group comes through in the recordings. Each song was recorded in one take, with only minor overdubbing in a few places and the effort pays off. “You have to sing so fucking hard every single time” says Dennen, “because you don’t know which take will be the one.” “Sometimes it was the third try, and sometimes it was the 23rd, you just never know.”
Overall, Dennen has improved on something that was great to begin with, he managed to find a new niche while we weren’t paying attention; this album should bring him some much deserved recognition because it’s really just that good.
By Meredith UnderhillBrett Dennen – Sydney (I’ll Come Running) by Fuse Group Australia