[Self-released; Oct. 23]
Rachel Kiel’s third album, Dream Logic, begins and ends with a dream. “Foot on the pedal, I’m in control/What’s the worst that could happen?” she croons in the barn-burning opener, “Car Crash Dream,” a tense, percussion-saturated song about nightmares.
That lucid awareness of dawning powerlessness haunts the rest of the 10-track album. “Favorite Work” is a lush symphonic tribute to doing what you love that showcases Kiel’s yearning, silvery alto, while “I Don’t Need You” is all jangly pop. Some songs have the energetic feel of Eye to the Telescope-era KT Tunstall, while the sweeping drama of others is reminiscent of Phoebe Bridgers.
The dream world is a state of consciousness that the Chapel Hill songwriter and multi-instrumentalist says she’s orbited her whole life. The liner notes make a self-conscious reference to the adage “there’s nothing more boring than someone else’s dream,” but Dream Logic belies it. Nothing is boring about Kiel’s dreams. She has a remarkable way of universalizing both the material of the dreams themselves—vampires, car crashes, anxiety—and the way that dreams tend to leak over into real life, giving us longings and fears we can’t quite shake off.
Invoking the pandemic in album reviews can feel like a reach, but Dream Logic’s subject is particularly of the zeitgeist: Scientists have already begun studying the “dream surge” that started when lockdown altered sleep patterns and spurred surreal anxieties. The lush, lilting instrumentation and infectious hooks mirror the flow of the songs, which ebb seamlessly between real and dream life, guided by the modulations of Kiel’s lovely, careful voice.
Swoony album closer “Ava Gardner” is far and away the standout. Kiel says that she read Gardner’s autobiography at the precocious age of eight, and it comes across: You can practically feel yourself lying in a bed, perfume wafting through the window, as Kiel sings a compassionate lullaby to her childhood self: “I dreamed you as someone who’d understand me/And sometimes it was lonely/Being small and so relentless/So hopeful for the mystery.”
Kiel is a gifted songwriter; lucky for us, she has her feet grounded in not just one world but two.
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