Dean Wareham has been singing and playing guitar in roughly the same winsome way for more than 25 years, first with Galaxie 500, then Luna, then in a duo—the fittingly named Dean & Britta—with his wife, Britta Phillips. Dean Wareham marks his first full-length solo album, and it should come as no surprise that it’s really no surprise at all: Fans of anything he’s done in the past will slide into these nine songs like slippers, cozy and familiar.
That isn’t a bad thing at all. Wareham found his unhurried style and perfected it years ago; now it’s all about fine-tuning, and Dean Wareham feels more finely tuned than ever. That’s perhaps due to the presence of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, who both produces here and lends his voice and guitar. There are moments on Dean Wareham clearly inspired by James, and they nicely dovetail with Wareham’s own past: He feels freer, for example, on “I Can Only Give My All” to include the sort of Velvet Underground-inspired guitar chug and squall that he hasn’t toyed with since the Luna days. It’s a small adjustment, but a welcome one.
Elsewhere, Wareham is all sad-eyed romantic: “Love Is Not A Roof Against The Rain” is full of cinematic ’60s sweep, with strings and melancholy giving way to a “To Sir With Love”-inspired swoon. “My Eyes Are Blue” treads similar territory, stretching its romantic legs (“We’ll love you in the meantime / We’ll love you in the lean times”) in some pretty reverb. “Holding Pattern” throws a very gentle curveball into the mostly chill record, riding a hypnotic motorik groove into a falsetto (or maybe just vaguely strained) chorus; if there’s a song here that could put Wareham back into college radio’s good graces again, it’s this one. It’s even got an inscrutably catchy line in “Kansas, Boston, Toto, Journey / San Diego over Denver, 17 to 6.” It’s no “Slide” or “Tugboat,” but it doesn’t need to be: It’s gorgeous and comforting all the same.