On their second album, the members of Bedroom Walls hone their dreamy indie pop and deliver a bittersweet meditation on youth and heartache.
For most people, hiding out in a bedroom and seeking solace through mournful music is an act of quiet desperation. For Adam Goldman, it's the foundation of the creative process. Goldman is the frontman and primary songwriter for Bedroom Walls, a self-described "romanticore" band that is steadily gaining a reputation for its thoughtful, albeit melancholy, indie pop songs. On their second full-length release, All Good Dreamers Pass This Way, Goldman has created an ephemeral album that shudders with the emptiness of a lonely night and fades away before the first hopeful rays of the rising sun.
All Good Dreamers opens with "In Anticipation of Your Suicide", a faintly cynical song with lyrics that set the tone for the entire album. "Your heart is almost always beating along with frozen winter tunes", sings Goldman, who quickly adds, "But you say you've laughed enough, / Your closet's stuffed with last year's blues". Few descriptions could better capture the sound of Bedroom Walls' songs than "frozen winter tunes". The band writes captivating melodies and beautiful arrangements, but their songs are rarely warm. Instead, the reflective music resonates with disenchantment and loss. Even the one song which attempts to break this rule, the bouncy pop tune "Kathy in Her Bedroom", ends with Goldman muttering the lines, "I walked to school, I came back home, / I called you on the telephone", as his voice fades dejectedly into silence.
Lyrics as contemplative as those on All Good Dreamers could easily become overwhelming, but the band's arrangements and the masterful touch of producer Rafter Roberts, who has worked with Sufjan Stevens and the Fiery Furnaces, save the album from such a fate. In addition to helping the recording produce a soothing effect, the lavish arrangements add an extra degree of interest to the music. The album contains traditional rock sounds, including mellow keyboards and echoing, tremolo-washed guitars, but it also features the silvery sounds of a glockenspiel and the orchestral contributions of horns and strings. Starting on the sixth track, "Hello, Mrs. Jones", the strings begin to play a bigger part in the overall texture, carrying tracks like "Do the Buildings and Cops Make You Smile" into dreamy bliss. Interspersed throughout the band's ethereal soundscapes are moments of stark urgency, such as the Phillip-Glassian opening of "Somewhere in Newhall", and poignant beauty, such as the sparse, heartrending closing track, "If the Storm Breaks and You're at Home".
All Good Dreamers is not without its problems. During some interludes, the band chooses effect over momentum, and the result is meandering music, pretty enough on the immediate surface but which has the tendency to drift into the background of the listener's consciousness. Despite such flaws, the album is ultimately redeemed by the tenacity of the Bedroom Walls' musical vision. On All Good Dreamers, the band members are unrelenting in their depiction of romance as a breeding ground for melancholy, and the result is a remarkably cohesive album which comes across as a touching meditation on heartache and youth. Where other bands rely on abrasive lyrics or bombastic instrumentals to make a statement, Bedroom Walls leans toward subtlety and suggestion. The band's music defies easy categorization and description. To understand the music of the Bedroom Walls is to hear it and, more importantly, to feel it. There is no substitute for listening to a Bedroom Walls album, and in today's musical culture, such a statement is high praise indeed.