Listening to Alex Calder’s Strange Dreams I had the strongest feeling of deja vu I’ve ever had. It was as if I’d heard the album before. Hell, it was as if I’d written about it in fact. But how could that be? How could I have written a review for an album I’d never heard before? It was like a, well, strange dream.
But this feeling coming from Alex Calder isn’t surprising. The guy is out there. Just, well, you just don’t know if the guy is pulling your leg or if he’s really just insane. But why would Captured Tracks put his albums out if he was just some crazy Canadian that played in a band with Mac Demarco once? I don’t know. They wouldn’t. There had to be something about Alex Calder besides five different Instagram accounts and his constant “retiring from music” and “returning to music” every couple months.
I’m listening to Strange Dreams right now and I am remembering why I love this guy’s music so much. His Time EP from 2013 was this compact little album filled with tension, woozy pop, and the feeling of a buzz gone horribly wrong. You go from sweet bliss to paranoia in seconds flat. Strange Dreams is his official album debut and it lives up to the promise of that EP and then some. It’s still catchy as hell. But catchy in the way someone like Ariel Pink or Bradford Cox is, not like the Beatles or(insert pop artist here.) It’s like the promise of a train wreck, but he never quite goes off the rails. It’s filled with woozy enchantment, much like being doped up before getting a cavity filled at the dentist’s office. The nitrous was left on a little too long and the voices are distant echoes as you gladly open wide for a drill.
The songs? They’re like a funhouse mirror version of pop from the 80s. But not the 80s you recall. A bizarro version of the 80s. A place where Deerhunter had the number one song in August of 1982. The Motels played the 1986 Superbowl Halftime Show. An 80s where Ariel Pink put together “We Are The World”. Alex Calder’s music is the alternative to the alternative. It’s apparent he loves pop music. But pop music coming from the point-of-view of latchkey kids. It’s stoned indifference. It’s darkly lit humor and a WTF middle finger up to anything that is too fussed over. “Retract”, “Strange Dreams”, and “Out of My Head” sound like distant jangle. It’s hard to discern the words Calder sings, but that’s of little importance. The words are merely another instrument. His voice is reverbed-drenched and just audible enough. It’s just another color splattered on the canvas, filthy canvas that it is. “The Morning” is distant rumble, synth, and Calder’s voice floating above in a cloud of THC.
Am I reading too much into this guy? Am I giving him too much credit? It’s one thing to have a sense of humor about yourself and pull one over on folks. I get it. It’s fun to do that kind of crap. But at some point people are going to start questioning your intent. Am I just a dope for liking Alex Calder? I guess it doesn’t really matter. I like his Time Ep, and I really like Strange Dreams. I also like strange dreams. Like that one I had where I reviewed an Alex Calder album back in June of 2014 called Strange Dreams. Weird, man. Just weird.
7.8 out of 10