Three albums (and a few EPs) into his career and only recently able to rent a car, 26-year-old Michael Benjamin Lerner has already covered a lot of ground as man/band Telekinesis. After largely side-stepping the Sophomore Curse with 2011’s 12 Desperate Straight Lines (which followed his charming 2009 eponymous-plus-an-exclamation-point debut), Lerner continues to build on his brand—if not exactly step out of his comfort zone—with Dormarion, a dozen punchy New Wave-indebted power pop tunes anchored by Lerner’s honest voice singing about relationships and growing up. The title is borrowed from a middle-of-nowhere-street-name in Texas near where Lerner recorded Dormarion.The album’s U.S. edition cover art, with shapes coming together, then splitting up, seems to double as an oblique road map for the track list.
Working without producer Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) for the first time on an LP, Lerner instead recorded with Spoon drummer Jim Eno and that band’s (comparatively) more urgent post-punk approach to indie rock filters through Dormarion‘s best songs and more focused first half. From the opening lines, “First time I looked straight to her eyes, I saw the future, I saw bluer skies” and the big synth kick that uh, powers the lead off “Power Lines”; the insistent drums of “Empathetic People” (a clumsy title, but a nice song about—I think—finding one’s way in the big city); the genuinely sweet ‘n’ jangly “Lean On Me” and the (ironically?) stripped down “Symphony”, a plainspoken, acoustic guitar heart-on-sleeve, marriage-as-symphony metaphor, Lerner-as-Telekinesis is showcasing what he does best.
Side two, led by “Dark to Light” and “Little Hill”—the possessor of the album’s meatiest riff—may “rock” a little harder, but a few tunes on the album’s back half, notably “Dark to Light” (at 2:21) and “Laissez-Faire” (1:54) feel half-finished, a sense that sometimes plagues Lerner’s other records, too; it’s a shame because it seems like Lerner has plenty to say and often rushes to get it out.
That said, closer “You Take It Slowly” is more measured, and with its titular suggestion, coupled with “you take it easier”, it could serve as a useful mantra for Lerner down the line. With three similar, enjoyable albums of sunny indie rock/power pop under his belt, with Dormarion, Lerner may have reached the end of this particular avenue of sonic exploration.