There’s a theory that any album that starts with a drum machine rhythm cribbed from an old organ is going to be inherently great. And wouldn’t ya know—In Dreams rolls out with those ol’ castanets clip-clopping along, driving the backbeat of “Here Come Those Good Feelings”. Now, the theory is mine, and I just invented it, but I’m definitely right. We’re rollin’.
And vibes—this album has ‘em! Both figuratively and literally, supplied by Doug Organ. If you could somehow pull a cozy over-sized Sunday sweater through your speakers, “Happy In My Heart” would be that sound. Some strings (provided by Nathaniel Wong) swell in to take the song home.
In Dreams is bit of a slow-burner until we hit the title track and find ourselves transported to a sun-bleached bell tower, watching some Morricone-tracked sand-blown shootout. Longtime co-conspirator Darren Radbourne provides a yearning and mournful trumpet, underpinned with a sort of fevered music box plink-plonk right out of a Leone film.
“Hide It Away” finally peels back the curtain to reveal 70s Mac hanging with some sleazy Stranglers-styled wheezy organ. Drummer Peter Hendrickson makes his first appearance for this live-off-the-floor banger, all Stevie Nicks shawls and carpeted vans. Let us boogie.
Worth mentioning here that the recording by Patrick Michalak allows for these songs to breathe, and dammit if they don’t feel more alive for it. There is a sort of dreamy breathiness inherent in these songs—a finger sliding across an acoustic guitar; a tape-delayed note ghosting away. When did musicians become so afraid of space? A lot can happen in between two notes, and van Keeken lets it land throughout In Dreams.
“Everything Is Pressing On Me” takes that all-too-familiar sentiment and kills it with kindness, all bedroom-doubled-tracked vocals and dreamy 70s synth. Existential dread has rarely sounded so beautiful.
“You’ve Gone Away” is a duet with Nickelas ‘Smokey’ Johnson, but George & Tammy this ain’t. The drunken sway evokes the sound of lost love in a Long Black Veil kind of way. Smokey’s barstool-fuzz guitar tries to sweep away the memories but sometimes the heart stays out past last call, before “Come With Me” gets the band back together for a sing-a-long send-off.
You could throw on a Carole King or Fleetwood Mac record on either side of In Dreams and no one would know we’d left the era of feathered hair and close harmonies. You could watch van Keeken sharing the stage with nü- cosmic-country troubadours like the Highest Order or Kacy & Clayton and feel on the cutting edge of something. Where song craft and a sense of space is a careful consideration. Space.
-James Stewart (Slates, Screaming Targets)
In an age where singer-songwriter records can run the risk of sounding overdone to the point of soullessness, Amy van Keeken continues to thrive on her intuitive musicality with her latest offering of dreamy golden-hour pop, In Dreams. Recorded with co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Patrick Michalak, the nine-song collection is imbued with a warmth and simplicity that nods to the harmony-lush trademarks of 70s folk-rock without ever whispering the thought of “throwback” in your ear.
Van Keeken and Michalak chose not to dwell on a part or idea for longer than a handful of takes – an organic approach that serves the album well by centring the songs around van Keeken’s clear and sophisticated vocal style. Floating from sunshiny notes of joy (“Here Come Those Good Feelings” – “Happy in My Heart”) to moments of lamp-lit sorrow (“You’ve Gone Away”), the album moves through songs like rooms in the same well-loved home, inviting the listener in to sip coffee in the midmorning light of the kitchen window, bask in the glow of a good love, and take care of one’s heart so that we may take care of one another.
Whether stripped down to vocals and acoustic guitar (“This Morning”) or fleshed out with rhythm section, organ, and distorted Stratocaster (“Hide it Away” – “Come With Me”), it is van Keeken’s effortless delivery, instinctive melodic hooks, and ability to surrender to each song’s sonic desires that make In Dreams feel so timeless, as though you’ve somehow heard it before – maybe in a dream. -Alex Vissia / BeatRoute