Dean Wareham’s Warm Heart Pastry

Dean Wareham’s Emancipated Hearts was released today.  Not quite an E.P., not quite an album, it is — when the B-side to “Love Is Colder Than Death”  is added to the tally — six new Wareham compositions and a cover of The Incredible String Band’s “Air.”  It is a beautiful, modest collection of songs that make us yearn for more — more Wareham in any form he’s willing to give us: solo artist, in tandem with Britta Phillips, or as a leader of a band.

While “The Deadliest Day Since The Invasion Begins” hauntingly lingers in the mind, the title track, “Emancipated Hearts,” is the stunner here.  When you think about Wareham’s sensibility — writing often gorgeous melodies, post-folk sensitive songs as pretty as anything by Robyn Hitchcock — it’s a revelation to realize we’ve never really heard one of his songs with a piano on it, and only rarely with cello or viola.  Wareham has always surrounded his melodies with delectable guitar lines, so purely in the mode of Sterling Morrison’s work with the Velvet Underground that, in fact, the ur-Luna breakthrough, “Friendly Advice,” even featured Morrison.  Here, though, we have piano and viola as emollients and the resulting raga completes a circle, as “Emancipated Hearts” sounds like it could easily have been a collaboration with the fellow-traveling Velvets acolyte Anton Newcombe on some long lost  Brian Jonestown Massacre album, even as it weaves in the tune from “The Little Drummer Boy.”

On Dean and Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful, Wareham recycled Luna’s “The Enabler” as “Herringbone Tweed,” updating a melody for his post-Luna incarnation.  Here he builds “The Ticking Of The Bomb” on the chassis of Luna’s “Hello Little One,” and with the expanded instrumentation used here, it takes a pleasing melody into breathtaking sublimity.  More of this, sir, please?  In fact, the whole mini-album is a tease, like reading a short story in The New Yorker by your favorite author, and while savoring it, it produces that feeling that will only be satisfied by a whole new book.

We love that he chose to play “Air,” a song by the Incredible String Band, and wish only that he could have recorded ISB leader Mike Heron’s “Warm Heart Pastry.”  This is an aspect of Wareham’s talent that is under-exploited: reviving sounds of late ’60s British folk rock.  Again, let’s have some more of this, Dean, ok?

Last week we wondered if Wareham was hinting at a Luna reunion in his review of the new Mazzy Star album.  We don’t really care what form more music from Dean Wareham comes in: a solo album of requisite length, more work with Britta, reunion of Luna.  It has been about eight years since Luna broke up, and on 13 Most Beautiful and now on Emancipated Hearts we have a reminder of how Dean Wareham is a talent of the first rank, his heart emancipated, his songwriting reliant on more than just his magical guitar work to fulfill a song.  May we have another helping?

UPDATE: The original version of this post stated that this was the first collection ever released by “Dean Wareham.”  Our friends at A Headful of Wishes pushed back on this assertion.  So it turns out the “Anesthesia” E.P., released in 1992, really was a “Dean Wareham” release.  We stand corrected.  Because two of the three songs on it were on Luna’s initial release, Lunapark, and because we never saw the 12″ or 7″ vinyl releases, we always assumed this was Luna, and it was a mistake to credit it to Wareham.  Live and learn.

One Response to “Dean Wareham’s Warm Heart Pastry”

  1. […] 2013-10-15: Tulip Frenzy Now on Emancipated Hearts we have a reminder of how Dean Wareham is a talent of the first rank, his heart emancipated, his songwriting reliant on more than just his magical guitar work to fulfill a song. May we have another helping? […]

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