Matthew Dear has come a long way from the staccato, bric-a-brac House of 1999’s “Put your hands up for Detroit.” He has become a transient figure in the margins of indie-pop music, genre-hopping through the years under various aliases and habituated to change. From the woozy neo-Disco of his early releases like “Backstroke” to the post-pop-punk of his critically acclaimed 2012 LP “Beams,” Matthew Dear darts between styles and sounds like a hummingbird, feeding off elements of Detroit Techno, eighties synth-Pop and the pseudo-pop a la Talking Heads and David Bowie.
His Technoid aliases, Audion, Jabberjaw and False veer the furthest off the grid and onto the dance floor, with purposeful electronica made for the likes of Spectral Sound and M_nus, which leaves his eponymous work free from these temporary indulgences and focussed on crafting an individual sound as an artist, which in recent years has seen Matthew Dear find his voice; both figuratively and literally.
Since “Beams” his voice has moved into the foreground taking a more of a central role in his work where it sounds today like the music comes together around his vocal part rather than the other way around.
It is the most prominent it’s ever been on his latest album, “Bunny.” Matthew Dear’s sixth studio album favours a more organic approach, constructed from soothing melodies coerced into popular forms with Matthew Dear’s gravelling baritone touching on familiar themes of love and life written from the sober perspective of an older, wiser man. Tracks like “Echo” talks of the frivolities of carefree youth with a nostalgic sentiment, but there is also a palpable sadness that traces through the entire album, hovering above the upbeat arrangements like a restless spirit looking for some form absolution in the happiness of others.
Jangly guitars find a unique synchronicity with drum machines and synthesisers on “Bunny,” something that might have carried over from Dear’s work on the MGMT remix album. Matthew Dear has never conformed to a contemporary pop sensibility before like he has on “Bunny.” His albums in the past would usually arrive at pop, through a kind of skewed vision of popular culture through the fringes of music, but on “Bunny” there seems to be an intent to create contemporary pop album from Dear. There’s an immediacy to the album, an accessibility, but there’s also a sincerity to it, that doesn’t appear forced or disingenuous. Matthew Dear might have made a contemporary pop album on “Bunny”, but he did so on his own terms, not bucking to trends, but manipulating it to his vision.
Matthew Dear’s work has always been for the committed fan, but on “Bunny” there’ the potential for individual tracks to live beyond the album, and reach a new, younger audience. He never really veers off the path of the sound of the album, and there’s a very intimate connection between all the tracks, but tracks like “Bad Ones” and “Heroes” have all the markings of chart success.