Molly Burch was born in 1990, but the songs on her latest album, Daydreamer, sound like they came from the 1980s. They have the MTV kind of danceable pop sheen, simultaneously sophisticated and cheesy. The lyrics share the self-confessed irony of taking oneself too seriously and making fun of one’s pains and pleasures. The primary difference between Burch’s music and the stuff from the earlier era lies in the context. Back in the day, artists such as Blondie, Madonna, and such sounded strong when singing about their weaknesses. Just being a woman singing from her point of view rather than a man’s perspective was empowering. Burch’s songs beg for mercy, not from the listener, but from herself.
Burch says the material on Daydreamer was inspired by looking at her old diaries when she was a self-hating 13-year-old. She was ashamed of her body and too shy to interact with others. Hence, the record’s title refers to how she coped. The melodrama of teenage angst fueled her fantasies. She hid in her room and daydreamed about the future rather than living in the present. Looking backward now is not all that different from what she did then. It’s just the other side of the coin.
Molly Burch has a supple voice that allows her to sound like the weak little girl she was, as well as the woman she is today. The two personas slip and slide into each other. On songs like “Physical”, she recounts past anxieties with the assurance of one who has conquered them. ”I’m not the one-dimensional girl of your mind / I’m a literal woman moving through life,” Burch declares. She’s purposely unconvincing. She’s no Olivia Newton-John, whose body gives her confidence. Burch’s “Physical” has more to do with the singer’s corporeal limitations than feeling strong despite the bubbling electronic instrumental accompaniment. Jack Tatum of indie rockers Wild Nothing produced the LP.
Nor is Burch’s “Made of Glass” as mockingly fragile as Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”. Both protagonists dryly pretend their feelings don’t really matter, but while Debbie Harry remains emotionless, Burch is overly dramatic. The steady drum machine underneath her vocals emphasizes the shakiness of the singer. Paradoxically, this gives the song depth by being all surface. “I’m made of glass,” she sings, “and I’ll always be like that.” One waits for the singer’s voice to break while her vocals elastically move through a wide emotional range. Like the one who found love was just a pain in the ass, Burch discovers her feelings weren’t as that big of a deal as they seemed to her when she was young.
Daydreamer succeeds because of its multilevel approach. Burch has an enchanting voice that can be touching and stoic simultaneously. One can never be sure if she is holding back the tears or if she’s over her fears. The lyrics suggest the pain of the past never really leaves us. Recalling them therapeutically helps resolve the hurt. The instrumentation and production deliberately express a dreamlike world like a Wes Anderson movie soundtrack. The music doesn’t come from the period presented in the songs as much as creates the appropriate mood. As a whole, Molly Burch’s Daydreamer makes one a daydream believer.