Sound: Taking one quart bohemian-folk, a pint of smooth rock and a full cup of luxuriating acoustic-pop and you've got a sonic laite specially made by Brett Dennen. His new album Hope For The Hopeless is puddled by pensive lyrics and reflecting pools of Americana-stylized melodies that deepen the hazy intonations in Dennen's vocals. The loosely latticed wiring of Closer To You has choirs of guitars and keyboards playing in unison, while the sparsely pearled acoustics of So Far From Me ring out with a heart-felt somberness that plays to those feeling lonesome. The sprightly leaps in the rhythmic beats along Make You Crazy have a Caribbean-feel as the reggae stylizing of Femi Kuti on harmony vocals enhance the jovial mood with he and Dennen riding on a fleet of pivoting riffs. The easy mobility of San Francisco has a bohemian-folk feel, which turns into a sluggish paddling along the heavily weighed riffs of Heaven.
Dennen's vocals feel aged though he slides across the notes with the flexibility of a young soul. He shows a visceral attachment to the words and music like they are a part of him, as solidly as his eyes and ears are his own. As an artisan, his instincts are sharp knowing precisely how the melodies and vocals should be shaped. His singing is unpretentious and lacks any amount of exhibitionism, which he compensates for by being down to the bone earnest in his lyrics. The bluesy style of the piano keys in Wrong About Me are covered in a smoky heap of acoustic guitars and thumping beats, which quiet down in Follow Your Heart to a faintly rocking keel. Dennen has a proclivity for cottony plush melodies like Follow Your Heart and Ain't Gonna Lose You, His uses them to clothe the damage made during the daily occurrence of living, loving, and hurting. // 7
Lyrics: Brett Dennen's lyrics are like mini-narratives that she'd light on feelings that have gone neglected like in Wrong About Me when he exposes, You were the one who was pretending You can call me a turncoat / Challenge my dignity / But you were wrong about me. He goes on in the song, Take off your plastic halo You can preach to the choir / Say that I was guilty / But you were wrong about me. He also makes meaningful observations which are worded to remedy troubling feelings like in Who Do You Think You Are, as he offers, Who do you think you are? / It's a life that you made / Don't be afraid by the hands you played. Other observations relate to the pitfalls of living like in Ain't No Reason when Dennen reflects, There ain't no reason things are this way / It's how they always been and they intend to stay / I can't explains why we live this way / We do it everyday. // 7
Overall Impression: Brett Dennen is like a bohemian bard who plays his music in a city park, making musings in his songs about his life and the lives of others. Dennen's album Hope For The Hopeless has him stark naked before the world with songs that bare his soul. His lyrics are personal and the music makes it possible for listeners to hear every seething burn and prickly cut that Dennen notices in himself and others. It's not your everyday folk-pop album like Feist or Gavin McGraw, but a few tracks like San Francisco and Make You Crazy can reach a really wide audience. Produced by John Alagia, Hope For The Hopeless is made for those who feel lonesome but not necessarily melancholic about it, more like hopeful that the solitude will break. Dennen is a new kind of caf Americana-folk able to reach people from different walks of life. // 7