Remember To Play

Dylan Galvin

Independent release, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There are several things a folk-pop singer-songwriter simply must do well to break free from the pack and connect with an audience. You have to compose well, sing well, and play well, yes—but that only covers the baseline prerequisites. The difference between “another singer with a guitar” and a performer capable of captivating an audience is in the intangibles: what are you writing and singing about, and why? Commitment to the song, emotional investment in the lyric, and a deep-seated sense of purpose behind it all—elements like these are what separate the special ones from all the rest. Oh yeah: and charisma, that invisible, indescribable quality that renders the audience unable to turn away.

Dylan Galvin’s new release Remember To Play is slight as albums go—at six songs, I’d probably call it an EP, though Galvin doesn’t—but it’s enough to gain a strong impression of an artist who’s a hundred percent committed to his craft and determined to tell his stories in a way that connects. And while Play is all over the place tonally, mixing themes of nostalgia, romance, playfulness and philosophy, it’s all of a piece in the sense that it’s all an expression of who Galvin is: a guy who’s passionately interested in all of these things, and a dynamic performer to boot.

The lighthearted “Recipe” kicks things off, a frothy tune that turns cooking into a song-length metaphor for romance. The combination of a catchy melodic hook and Galvin’s total investment in the song is what makes it work; he sells what could easily have been an overcooked lyrical conceit with a sort of insouciant charm that’s further buoyed by the sweet, snappy trumpet work of Matt Weathersby. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“The Chesapeake” shifts gears instantly, a lush, rippling acoustic number full of finely picked notes and nostalgic musings about a first kiss, infused with a keen sense of place, leading nicely into what feels like the heart of the album.

“When Hearts Approach The Great Divide” finds Galvin bravely tackling the most fraught of subjects: his own parents’ divorce. Galvin’s website bio reinforces the thread revealed more subtly in the song; the song isn’t about a marriage breaking up so much as it is about traumatic events forging an even closer bond between father and son: “You and me amongst the debris / As hearts approach the great divide.” While I might second-guess the decision to sing the choruses entirely in falsetto—the words are plenty affecting on their own without adding that touch of pathos—the song is thoroughly compelling.

As if determined to lighten the mood, Galvin pulls a tonal 180 with “Tire Swing,” essentially the title track here, a call to leave work behind for a little while and remember to play. It’s a sharply drawn and appropriately playful tune again fueled by Galvin’s super-nimble acoustic work. Next up, “Dropping A Porcelain Heart” feels like the weakest link here, with a rather on-the-nose lyric about a player who suddenly realizes that actions have consequences; it’s artfully executed but doesn’t feel like it adds a lot to the conversation.

Closer “Why Would The Devil Be Jealous Of You” delves into philosophy and theology, deconstructing the Garden of Eden story and ending up feeling like sort of a cross between Jon Foreman and Jon Troast. Here the falsetto is deployed more strategically, underscoring a word or a phrase for effect in this rather heady, serious tune.

Remember To Play is a little of this and a little of that, to be sure, but these six tunes suggest that Galvin is entirely capable of making a full-length album statement that’s rich with varied layers and moods. Beyond playing well and singing well, Galvin does what all the best singer-songwriters do: he finds ways to frame personal experiences and observations that make them feel universal and relatable.

In the end what appeals the most is the honesty of these songs. Whether exuberant or philosophical, sad or flirtatious, Dylan Galvin delivers music from the heart, dynamic, authentic, and invariably engaging.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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