After rising to fame as the bassist for the psychedelic pop group Tame Impala, Cameron Avery takes a starkly different artistic direction in his latest album, Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams. Tame Impala claimed their niche in the industry with spacey, dreamlike instrumentals, distorted vocals, and forlorn lyrics, attracting acid-chasing teens and summer festival-goers alike. Eschewing the electronic instruments Tame Impala relied on, Avery mixes slow, crooning ballads with more intense and rock-inspired tracks, crafting an unoffensive 52 minutes of background music on Dreams.
Traditional instrumentation dominates the first two tracks of the album, shifting the sonic focus onto Avery’s voice, which delivers melancholic lyrics exploring unimaginative themes of lost love and regretted romance. Avery can hold his own with simplistic, singer-songwriter style vocals, speaking as much as singing his lyrics. He sets himself apart from the likes of Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson when he launches into falsetto, bringing more emotional heft to his tracks.
“Do You Know Me By Heart” opens with romantic string accompaniment, building into a soulful, drum-based breakup track. “Dance With Me” is far more assertive, using traditional rock sounds and instrumentation to evoke a slow, passionate partner dance. The short guitar solo is underwhelming, lacking sufficient crescendo and supporting instrumentals to give it full effect. Avery elevates his usually unimpressive lyrics in “Wasted on Fidelity,” where he ponders how he uses his newfound wealth on superficial indulgences, and vividly describes his groggy mornings “with what’s her face.” Throughout the album, Avery recounts little moments in idealized romances such as these–the bleary mornings, lazy afternoons, and slow, post-nightcap dances.
Avery briefly goes electric on “The Cry of Captain Hollywood,” a short instrumental piece that serves as a refreshing interlude from his usual crooning, and which melds electric guitar with soaring strings and heavy drums to great effect. The following track, “Watch Me Take It Away,” attempts to replicate this sound, echoing Arctic Monkeys circa AM (2013), but drowns the guitar in favor of Avery’s more gruff vocals and other secondary instrumentation.
Throughout the album, Avery proves to be a vocal chameleon, jumping between slow falsettos, pained growls, and folksy narrative singing as he pleases, allowing himself and his band to show off their skill at creating solid alternative, rock, and pop tracks. “C’est Toi” most effectively melds these styles and is the most radio-ready song on the record. The song’s extended cut gets repetitive at times, but both versions allow Avery to show off vocally and leave ample room for the strings used liberally throughout the album. “Whoever Said Gambling’s For Suckers” is perhaps the most unorthodox track on the record; it is an eight-minute narration of an outlandish fantasy Avery concocted, replete with dog racing, heavy drinking, and a passion-fueled vendetta. The storytelling is cringeworthy at times, such as when he recounts that “Stacy told me to give her my car, my day’s take / Or she’d spray the back wall with my cerebellum.” The song is a fun story, however, if you suspend disbelief and let yourself get lost in Avery’s Australian growl.
Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is a solid effort from Cameron Avery, distinguishing him from Tame Impala, and allowing him to explore a new musical direction. However, none of the songs are especially compelling, and prove to be more effective at establishing a mood or recreating a certain sound than being memorable or breaking ground in some way. Even the title of the album and the artwork are not particularly distinct but serve to create the atmosphere Avery wants. Each song is consistent and pleasant, making for a suitable indie-romance backdrop, but failing to to create a lasting impression.