Matt Hannah – Dreamland

Based out of the Minneapolis area, Matt Hannah’s has already scored a considerable critical and popular hit with 2014’s Let the Lonely Fade, but his latest release Dreamland proves this is a singer/songwriter who stands out even in quite a competitive scene.

Dreamland isn’t a concept album, by any definition, but Hannah approaches the ten song collection much like a novelist might approach their work. The tracks are united by an overarching theme. Hannah’s interest here is investigating the connections and results of confusing objective reality with tricks of our memory and it opens up a realm of possibilities for the songwriter.

Each of the ten cuts delves into this theme in different ways and there isn’t a single moment on the album that’s clearly filler. Instead, Hannah has produced a fantastically coherent collection brimming over with melody and sure-footed musicality. He’s also assembled a first rate band to assist him in the task and the performances range from impressive to simply breathtaking.

Dreamland opens the release with muted, down to earth gracefulness. It also lays out the themes and overall concerns of the songwriting with appealing economy, the lyrics touching on the general and specific in turns, and Hannah gets more out of the already fine words thanks to his patience and careful phrasing.

There’s a greater emphasis on guitar heard in the performance of Broken Hearts & Broken Bones, primarily electric guitar, and the grittiness of the track shows off the strong blues influences running through Hannah’s musical DNA. The lyrical content is equally rugged and strikes a nice balance between commonplace speech and a smattering of elevated language that will affect many listeners.

He goes back to the carefully arranged lyricism of the album’s opener with the song Banks of the Mississippi. It’s a song that recalls Hannah’s rich knowledge of traditional music while still bearing the mark of highly individual poetry.

There’s real strength radiating from the song Set Free thanks to the evocative electric guitar lines wrapped around the song’s acoustic spine. Some of the lyrics reach a little too hard for poetic effect, but the earnestness will cut through the occasionally awkward line and Hannah’s vocal will please many.

Different Kind of Light changes things up slightly with a track that begins as an exclusively acoustic number before introducing powerful electric guitar work and a fuller band performance during the song’s second half. It’s a full recovery from some of the straining on Set Free as the song’s lyrics rank among the album’s best moments.

Something in the Air comes at an excellent time in the album, near its conclusion, and the barely defined shape of the song creates a pensive atmosphere that matches up well with the vocal and lyric.

Morning Song ends the album on, perhaps, a predictable note, but it’s an exceptionally well done track that neatly dovetails into the preceding nine songs. Matt Hannah has written and recorded an extraordinarily unified album that moves miles past the fine effort he turned in with his debut.

8 out of 10 stars

If you enjoyed a preview from Matt Hannah’s album Dreamland, check out his official website by clicking here & give him a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

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