Release Date: Aug 27, 2013
Record label: Paw Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Dent May told me several years ago in a phoner for Paste he wanted to play weddings. His third album has that right sound—airy and radio-glossed. However, the subject matter—aches and confusions of the heart—doesn’t quite gel with chapel bells. On its surface, Warm Blanket sounds like a mild soap release.
Hello, my name is Warm Blanket and my mom says you are my dad. Her name is Sunflower and she said you liked her “dark California optimism” once. She said it fit good with your “tragic and whimsical imagination.” I know we've never met but Mom says I’m a well-produced and sunnier combination of both of you, whatever that means. I live in Oxford, Mississippi, and my birthday is coming up.
Dent May's 2012 album Do Things revealed the one-time ukulele strummer to be something of a whiz at writing and producing laid-back disco that made for a perfect summer dance party soundtrack. Along with the tunes that aimed for the dancefloor, May also showed he could knock off classic Beach Boys/Harry Nilsson/Van Dyke Parks-style pop with grace and style. His next album, 2013's Warm Blanket, cuts down on the disco dancing and focuses more on the easygoing but very heartfelt songcraft.
Appearances can be deceiving. Looking at the cheesy album cover of Dent May’s new release, Warm Blanket, you might expect a parody of a 1970s easy-listening “music for lovers” collection. Cueing up the first song, May’s multi-tracked, harmony-drenched voice croons “Turn up the speakers baby / Dim the lights down low” in a syrupy invitation.
Dent May's songs really work in the context of his label, Animal Collective's Paw Tracks. He comes off as the inverse of lablemate Ariel Pink's narcotic AM kaleidoscopes: a button-up, FM-obsessive who just has his shit a little more together. In the context of a boutique label like Paw Tracks -- with Black Dice, Eric Copeland, and Excepter on the roster -- May is the palate cleanser, the fresh drink of sweet lemonade after a cocktail of Campari and motor oil.
You have to sound like it matters. Whichever musical path you're treading, whether your forte is in making huge expansive records or sub-three minute pop songs, there needs to be, at the heart of it, a bridge of sorts by which we as consumers can connect with what's being produced. Which isn't to say that every record needs to be super personal; however even fun and carefree records should show a little bit of heart, some indication that this is all worthwhile.
If Dent May were to offer a class on writing melodies, I would definitely enroll. The songs on Warm Blanket — the third album by the Oxford, Mississippi native — are, above all else, showcases for Dent’s prodigious, seemingly academic understanding of the nuances that define an instantly ear-grabbing melodic line. Comparisons are often made between Dent’s work and the songs that Brian Wilson helmed as the creative force behind The Beach Boys’ ever-influential pop masterworks.
The press release for Warm Blanket, the third offering from Mississippi-born pop tunesmith Dent May, boasts of how the record was recorded in a “haunted Victorian house” in St. Augustine, Florida. Maybe that’s true, but you’d never guess it by giving the record a spin. Whatever murkiness that clouded the record’s process has been cleanly scrubbed away, as the end results of Warm Blanket show anything but.
Unlike most musicians who hone their ideas until they achieve a distinctive style, Dent May keeps things fresh by experimenting with a new approach on each album. On his first record, 2009’s The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, he cast himself as a suntan lotion and string bikini crooner, a man of leisure with a taste for sticky sweet melodies. On 2012’s Do Things, he scrapped the ukulele for synths and drum machines.
Dent May is one of pop’s dreamers. ‘Warm Blanket’ follows in quick succession from last year’s ‘Do Things’, and displays all of the Mississippi singer-songwriter’s eccentric qualities.For an album in which almost every sound and instrument was played by May himself in a supposedly haunted Victorian house in Florida, the songs sound rich and satisfying. It’s a melting pot of skewed pop, which flits between dreamy introspection and bittersweet exuberance.May himself comes across as a man out of time; he’s is something of an auteur, with a kinship with idiosyncratic, yet brilliant songwriters such as Harry Nilsson.
Dent May begins his third album, Warm Blanket, with an amiable set of commands on ‘Turn Up The Speakers,’ which is a rather oddly worded instruction for listeners who are more apt to respond to a call to increase the volume. But May has something on his mind, and he wants those thoughts to ring out loud and clear. And while those ideas are all cloaked in the lush, Beach Boys-tinged arrangements that have permeated his entire catalog, what exactly these grand notions are never quite shine throughin May’s simplistic, love-drenched new collection of pop songs.