Dustin Wong: Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads

The Ponytail guitarist's second solo LP is more mature and confident than anything in his catalogue, running his brightly colored guitar tones along tricky structures and playing for a broader, more noise-averse audience.

Dustin Wong

Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2012-02-21
UK Release Date: 2012-02-27

You know those records that weigh so heavily on your very soul? The records that creep with you into the dark recesses to give you solace and assure you that they understand your pain? This isn’t one of them.

God bless records like Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, the ones that wouldn’t know the meaning of pain if it fell on top of them like an airborne piano. They live in a self-contained world of beauty and contentment, and function seemingly as pleasant getaways when that’s all it is you’re after. Thrill Jockey has provided a home for a number of them; The Sea and Cake’s Nassau and almost all of Mouse on Mars’ albums come to mind. And now, the Chicago label has carved out a space for Baltimore-based guitarist Dustin Wong, who gives us a wonderful musical diversion for which to admire butterflies in the air, not to mention the second-best record of his young yet fruitful career.

Wong’s bright, ringing tones practically define the indie rock guitar sound of the late 2000s and early 2010s, though they are instantly recognizable and attributable to him. They’re as resonant as church bells but they twinkle like wind chimes, and when Wong rocks out—as he frequently does in his main band, Ponytail, and does here too—they splash like glitter and paint. Like Scott Kannenberg of Pavement and Lou Barlow of Sebadoh, Wong’s guitar sings. Its range is truly impressive, but even with the abundance of technology that Wong bestows upon its instrument, it always sounds just like a guitar. Rock purists should be thrilled to hear it.

Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads should excite followers of Wong’s music as well. After playing minimal college rock as one half of Ecstatic Sunshine, and spazzing out in Ponytail as only that band can, Wong has graduated to a more mature level of musicianship, while losing none of his charm behind the strings. Ideas from his previous material can be heard here quite clearly. On Ecstatic Sunshine’s Freckle Wars in 2006, he and Matt Papich leaned back in their beanbag chairs and ran through a series of fast, simple guitar harmonies. Now, Wong himself carries an entire harmonic orchestra, and incorporates minimalist phasing and advanced time signatures. Wong had written a big, double-disc solo album of guitar musings, Infinite Love, in 2010, but most of its songs didn’t click. It wouldn’t surprise me very much if Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads involved a lot more thought and planning, even as it sounds far more relaxed and flows more smoothly than its predecessor.

Dreams Say succeeds on a number of levels, one of which involves bringing the delightfully spastic guitar work of Ponytail to an audience that shuns too much dissonance. While Ponytail’s Ice Cream Spiritual may be Wong’s best album overall—it’s a signal piece of music, where the parts transcend pure noise and burst into a thousand colored stars—it is certainly not for everyone, and this album approximates his best guitar work on record quite nicely. Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads hits apotheosis after apotheosis: “Abstract Horse Slow Motion” appears to be the climax until the next track arrives, and the following track manages to one-up the one before it. And that’s just the beginning. Each song graces the ears in a slightly different way, and picking out favorites is part of the fun. But if you prefer to be carried off to a mighty nice place for a shade under an hour, just put on the record and let it do its thing. It may prove to be the hard rocker’s definitive daydream album of 2012.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.