Dylan Mondegreen - Dylan Mondegreen
Context is key, especially with an album like Dylan Mondegreen's self-titled effort. Well, not really self-titled, considering Dylan Mondegreen isn't the Norwegian singer-songwriter's real name. Ever wanted to pick your own name? Well, Borge Sildnes had that chance, and he chose Dylan Mondegreen, instead of getting inventive with the opportunity, like Kim Dotcom did. It says a lot of what can be found in this album. It's perfectly acceptable, but doesn't make people gasp.
Speaking context, the ideal listening situation for an album like Dylan Mondegreen is during relaxation, feeling tenderly sentimental, while not particularly pertaining much of a gag reflex. It's a gentle, happy, swaying good time—all the while being monotonous and sick of pretending to be happy for you. Think Morrissey, but actually attempting to portray happiness.
The record is a sweet skip through a forest of all things gentle and twee. Sentimental lyrics are surrounded by delicate layers of strings, glockenspiel, tender chimes and twinkling keys. Poetic lyrics contain musings on friendship, love, fatherhood and heartbreak. It's all there, but can often be more like a complete stranger showing you pictures of his new niece, rather than gazing into your newborn's eyes for the first time.
On 'Life As A Father' Mondegreen manages to sound utterly disinterested, while the gentle strings of 'Castaway' is our introduction to the spa music experience, with elegiac vocals failing to translate well to an interesting song. The instrumentals are dominant here, like Sildnes worked his lyrics around the folky composition, instead of vice-versa. Sildnes is no doubt a masterful lyricist, it's just the translation that can feel like poems being read over a stock CD.
Sildnes isn't as showy as Sufjan, and not as lyrically intriguing as deadpan Jens. Just barely missing the mark each time, it feels slightly over-produced, cathartic in the way an actress cries on screen. Sugary instrumentals don't compliment the tender lyrics and mawkish delivery—it makes them surreal.
This hasn't always been the case with Mondegreen. Previous records, While I Walk You Home and The World Spins On are noticeably a lot more fun, confident and engaging. Dylan Mondegreen shows us Sildnes' introversion, with sedated melodies and safe bets. No one is expecting him or willing him to remain stagnant, but growing up is only fun in prospect.
'Come Tomorrow' is the musical equivalent of a drippy ice cream cone—the sugary licks just don't stop coming. A motivational mix-tape of sorts, "Come tomorrow we will cherish what it brings/and today won't mean a thing," he hums, just in case you weren't already over an epiphany during 'The Heart is a Muscle'; "You know you can take this pain/because after all/the heart is a muscle."
But of course, Mondegreen's not lost he's just hiding a bit. Lush percussion and string ensembles are arranged just right on tracks such as 'Keeper of Secrets', with Sildnes' vocals adopting that brighter tone. This newfound elegance works well with the tinkling chime and drum textures, portraying emotion in his voice while barely making a sound.
Sildnes thrives when he mixes it up. The tropical hook of 'It Takes Two' inject electro-waves behind the folk, adding to the cheese of lyrics like "To keep up the friendship/it takes two/I only wish the best for you," but knocks it into an endearing jazz-infused pop track.
Similarly, 'You Make It Easy' flows well with inoffensive strumming and jaunty harmonies. It's Belle and Sebastian fluff, sliding sensual guitar under uplifting percussion, as 'Tears All Over Town' takes a comparable stand, livening talk of loss with backing harmonies, a floaty mix of strings, and a final stretch of sax.
Dylan Mondegreen isn't a bad album, it's just a very neat one. No one ever lost their shit over neatness. It's on the few tracks that dare to shove the contents off the desk, that make for an interesting and uplifting listen.