Dear Cloud has a knack for delivering warmth in their music, even as they sang about despair or melancholy. Their appeal had been grounded on empathy – the sadness expressed was their own, but one others could identify with. Their new album MY DEAR, MY LOVER takes a step towards offering solace in a more straightforward manner, while also trying to mix digital instruments with the analog.
The opening track “Closer” feels almost like a movie soundtrack, with the hymn-like singing and strings. The distorted bass synth amplifies the dramatic mood, highlighting the resolution in the lyrics to transcend sadness.
The soundscapes in the title track “Beside You” are reminiscent of Nell, the spacious and intimate at the same time while masterfully using a live piano and strings with drum machines. The composition is almost like a pop ballad, resembling the vocalist Nine’s work with DickPunks pianist Kim Hyunwoo on his album Hiano.
“Runaway” expresses sentiments most typical of Dear Cloud; an overwhelming loneliness, a thick kind of sadness. The song quietly psychedelic, with the guitar weaving in and out of the strings but never quite taking center stage, even the guitar solo being soon overtaken by the vocals. The well-crafted melody makes me want to listen to a live rendition of the song.
One of the more approachable tracks of this album is “21c Hero,” taking on a synth pop approach to address sentiments attributed to people in their early 20s. The funkier guitar riffs and minor chord progressions give a slick feeling to the song, while the warm Wurlitzer in the verses provides a nice contrast with the colder synths in the chorus.
Along with “21c Hero,” “Wallflowers” offers a more straightforward solace, the latter taking on the form of a letter of support. Synth pop elements are still present, showcasing an energy different in nature from their past upbeat tracks like “Dancing with you at night.” The song gets a little repetitive towards the middle, which is addressed by chopped vocal samples and a guitar solo.
“Mother” is the last of the concessionary gestures towards listeners, as the lyrical speaker takes on the persona of a mother to sing about motherhood. Understandably, it does so through a folk composition, with just an acoustic guitar and a voice.
“Sorry” features pianist Jeon Jin Hee, harkening back to her solo project which featured Nine. This is the most instrumentally familiar track of the album, the focus on acoustic instruments. The guitar, bass, and drums embrace the melancholy vocals as they had in the past. The strings in this case may not have been so necessary, but are not too disturbing or otherwise out of place.
The piano intro and verse are met with synths again in “Bye Dear Bye,” the band instruments sticking to the bare minimum. The melody and composition are great as always, but the focus on synths and strings in this case confuses the identity of the band – The guitars and drum are reduced to background instruments for the vocalist, at which point the song starts to feel like Nine’s solo project rather than the band’s collective work.
“Shining Bright” is styled as a quintessential Dear Cloud anthem. With the focus back on the band instrumentals, the burst of energy feels more organic. This song will without a doubt be a crowd pleaser at live shows.
Yongrin, the guitarist of the band, joins Nine for a duet in “My Dear,” a decidedly more sentimental track with just a piano and a guitar. The guitar especially adds a psychedelic touch, almost sounding as if it was being played with a bow.
“My lover” is the most Dear Cloud-like track in spite of lacking vocals. Each instrument that had had to hold back to make room for strings and synths in previous tracks are free to express themselves, exerting their presence lest they be forgotten.
MY DEAR, MY LOVER is a studio album, meaning it will sound much different if the band was to play it live at concerts or festivals where access to a live string orchestra is limited and people expect different soundscapes. With that in mind, Dear Cloud seems to want to take a step closer to a wider audience, experimenting by cutting back on the band instruments and employing synths and strings. They still have much to work out in this aspect, however, especially in terms of keeping the band identity alive.