Over the years, few acts have adapted and evolved as much within their own genre as Eisley. Their latest offering, I'm Only Dreaming, once again sees a notable shift in style. Gone are the snappy vocal harmonies and ethereal ambiance, replaced with more of a laid back indie pop. By no means should this come as too much of a surprise; the recent departures of Stacey and Chauntelle from the familial-based DuPree outfit are indeed felt.
The 11-track album opens with "Always Wrong," a catchy tune, reminiscent of the band's work from the late 2000's. It also serves to kick off an album full of somewhat enigmatic lyrics: "And I know I'd only let you down / and I know you won't stick around / but I'll make sure I'll keep you coming back/ and the taste of wine is oh-so-sweet." The second track, "Defeatist," is both a solid offering and one the album's better pieces, but also continues the lyrical trend: "Your weird mind, your bright eyes / I've wasted so much time / on all the things that don't turn me on / so let's find a way."
Without getting ahead myself, it's worth noting that album does contain some material that a few listeners might find a bit questionable. While many of the lyrics are whimsically sweet, some suggestive content could easily (and probably should) be interpreted. This isn't entirely new territory for Eisley, and being that the majority of the album deals with love and romance, it's somewhat expected. While by no means is any of this "wrong" or "sinful," a healthy awareness of what's lurking under the surface of the lines will be beneficial to some.
The third track, "A Song for the Birds," features guest vocals from Max Bemis, Sherri's husband. It's a lovely little song full of poppy hooks and almost feels tailor-made for radio; a good thing in this instance. "Sparking" is a decent track, but feels too uninspired and relies too heavily on electronic elements. "My Best Friend" features fantastic lyrics ("and I'm carving your name in the tree / where I sit and pray about all of the things I've done / and how I wasn't there with you always / but I wasn't in the right place"), but the melody misses the mark and fails to bring the song to its full potential. Thankfully, "Rabbit Hole" is an enjoyable song with a cute melody and amusing lines: "I fell down the rabbit hole / ring in hand / my mind was full / winged bird, I love you."
"Louder than a Lion" is decidedly the best track on the album, and features guest vocals from Anthony Green. Upon hearing this piece, it becomes undeniably clear that this represents the direction Eisley should be pursuing in light of their current lineup. "You are Mine" feels like a much-needed throwback offering, and "When You Fall" seems more like a track that would be expected on Sherri's solo albums. "Snowfall" is a personal favorite, with its haunting and bold lyrics ("last night I woke beside you / feeling for your hand in the dark / I caught it / holding tight to a locket / my name in Hebrew / breakthrough"), perfectly coordinated with the solemn piano work, and later, echoing drums. The album closes out with "Brightest Fire," a great track which tries to be a little bigger than it truly is. While it does the job well, it doesn't feel entirely complete, and seems to be lacking the energy it aims for.
Interestingly enough, most of the tracks have a similar feel, at least insofar as structure goes. All of the tracks are close to the same length and, unfortunately, the best parts of what Eisley has done differently this time around aren't the most original. While this isn't a terrible revelation, it does keep the album from standing out as much as would be hoped. I'm Only Dreaming is certainly a noteworthy addition to the band's discography, but it fails to resonate as strongly as Combinations or The Valley. Still, it grows in quality with multiple listens and there are a few highlight tracks ("Louder than a Lion," "Snowfall") more than worth checking out.- Review date: 2/23/17, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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