Last updated on November 20, 2020
We are disconnected, staying safe behind our masks. Reality’s teeth drip wet with the blood of those killed via the pandemic, racial violence, or political unrest. Music cures what ails us, an antidote pushing away the chaos. Thunder Dreamer’s latest Summer Sleeping on Lonesome Morning Record Co. is a melodic masterpiece, shining sonic light into this year’s multilayered darkness.
The Evansville, Indiana-based Thunder Dreamer’s line up of Steven Hamilton (vocals, guitar), Corey Greenfield (drums), Alex Wallwork (bass), and Zach Zint (piano) creates four-piece magic. Their five-song EP shines with lead singer Steven Hamilton’s vocal tone and complex lyricism contrasted with unpretentious instrumentation. Such musicality seems spiritual in its simplicity. It’s full of homegrown midwestern flavor, bringing to mind the stylistic genius of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos).
Mindfully produced by Tyler Watkins (Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s), stunning instrumentation choices appear throughout. The record becomes a sensory experience as Watkins and the band craft the space between each note. Opening with “House and Garden” seems a perfect way to start: sweet storytelling from faraway places where we live in our dreams. Beautifully composed, the song’s almost-harpsichord sound is perfection. Despite that momentary feeling of expansiveness, “Of a Million” contradicts our individuality’s uniqueness, with Hamilton’s guitar and Zint’s piano conversing. This is songwriting at its best, speaking to that inner voice that I think everyone has heard–if they are honest with themselves.
“Loraine” feels strained, missing Hamilton’s vocal sweet spot in his lower register. Yet the vocal approach demonstrates the challenge the subjects in this song face. Missing the flow of easy connection, we long for that ease another person provides. Stunningly haunted contrasts define key elements of this song’s success. It’s one of the standouts of the release. Broken, sometimes we claw our way back to each other–but sometimes we are lost along the way.
Bringing the backline front and center, Wallwork and Greenfield shine in closing Summer Sleeping. “Blurred Out” has a heaviness but is yet somehow comforting in its composition. Zint’s piano counterbalances Hamilton’s guitar, pairing with the insinuation that this reality is temporary. Dreams and nightmares are fleeting. Thank goodness we’re awake, ready for full transcendence. The nightmares of 2020 have helped give birth to one of the top releases so far this year with Thunder Dreamer’s not-to-be-missed Summer Sleeping.–Lisa Whealy