In the 13 years since his first single, “Hands Up For Detroit,” was released, Matthew Dear has taken his career in variety of directions. He’s recorded solo LPs under his own name and techno LPs as Audion, remixed acts like Spoon and The Postal Service, and philosophized musically about love, loss, and lonely futuristic metropolises. While Dear’s 2003 record, Leave Luck To Heaven, was notable for its fusion of pop and techno, on 2007’s Asa Breed, Dear moved even further away from glitchy samples and toward more traditional rock sounds.
Beams, Dear’s fourth full-length, continues in that same vein. While it’s clear Dear can still move a dance floor, he’s doing so these days more by channeling David Byrne than calling on Derrick May. While the record has some club-ready tracks—“Earthforms” thrives on its dark, Joy Division-style basslines, for example—the cuts that make the record memorable are those that dig deeper and are more lyrically thoughtful. Dear has never been the most forthcoming figure, remaining somewhat purposefully oblique. Dear’s music speaks; he doesn’t.
Beams marks a slight opening in Dear’s shadowy persona, a crack in a grey, industrial façade. Dear’s lyrics on this record are deeply personal examinations of growth and life. On “Do The Right Thing,” Dear says that his existence has been marked by “pain / with mistakes.” On “Earthforms,” he muses “All that I’ll know tomorrow / is what I’ve learned today.” Dear may have been making records for the last 13 years, but it’s only now that he’s really letting his music say exactly what he’s thinking. If his songs are his therapy, his shrink would tell him he’s made a breakthrough.
For Dear, Beams is all about looking back at his life, thinking about getting older, and second-guessing the decisions he’s made thus far. It’s a record steeped in uneasiness, but still somewhat optimistic. Dear’s voice might be heavy and his music might be dark, but he believes in the light.