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Dan Bern - Breathe

Dan Bern, Breathe

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

YOU might not have heard of Dan Bern. But listening to his latest album, Breathe, you might want to find out more about him.

The talented singer-songwriter is actually quite a prolific performer. He recorded five full-length albums and at least as many EPs between 1997 and 2005.

And he’s also been hailed as the new Dylan, shares more than a passing similarity to the vocal style of Tom Petty and boasts a keenly observational eye and a wry sense of humour.

Breathe, however, finds the artist at the peak of his form. It’s a folk-rock album of hypnotic quality that just keeps on getting better the more you hear it.

Bern’s ear for a good lyric is epitomised in one of the standout tracks, Remember Me, which boasts such gems as “if I was a bee I’d have to sting you with my stinger and then your arm would swell and hurt for days”; “if I was a bird I’d make a nest in your hair”, and “if you were blind, I’d play guitar softly beside you”.

The song itself is a tender, folksy ballad that’s dripping in slushy romanticism – yet crucially, thanks to Bern’s husky style, it never feels contrived or overly sentimental. Instead, it’s just plain lovely.

Another highlight is the rockier Suicide Room, a searing tale of a down-on-his-luck drifter who decides to beat a room whose two previous tenants had taken their lives (“if I can’t beat this world, then maybe I can beat this room”). It may sound depressing, especially when recalling how the previos inhabitants went about committing suicide, but it somehow wins you over with a keen sense of melody and the defiant optimism of its words.

Album opener Trudy is another strong offering, when the Dylan comparisons are certain to be made in force, while the whimsical Visit In My Dream is a reflective composition that pleasantly shuffles its way along off the back of more thought-provoking lyrics. And there’s a lot of harsh imagery in the lyrics of Past Belief that serve to make it another of the album’s most striking listens (“you can cut off my eyelids and I won’t complain”).

Like we said, Bern’s latest is a really pleasant surprise that could well bring him the wider awareness his songwriting certainly merits.

Download picks: Remember Me, Suicide Room, Visit In My Dream, Past Belief

Track listing:

  1. Trudy
  2. Breathe
  3. Feel Like A Man
  4. Remember Me
  5. Suicide Room
  6. Tongue Tied
  7. Rain
  8. Visit In My Dream
  9. Past Belief
  10. Another Man’s Clothes