Much like Kelley Stoltz’ previous records from the past decade, To Dreamers is a record that shows admiration for tried and true, treble-centric '60s pop music, albeit in a way that is a bit more straightforward in its choice of instruments. Stoltz could be influenced by decades-old British and American rock, or those of his peers who drew from them. He is the Tyde, and Fast Piece of Furniture, and Figure 8-era Elliott Smith. He is more plainly a translation of the Kinks, as made apparent by "Fire Escape," which eagerly borrows its riff from "All Day and All of the Night," and by "I Don't Get That," which is nearly a dead ringer for "Animal Farm," one minute and ten seconds in.

And you get the feeling that, in spending his days taking turns on the drums, on guitar, on tambourine, in his San Francisco home, there's not much conflict in his life to pull him any which way. This is apparent also in his lyrics, which he has said do not usually get recorded after being written on paper, that his lyrics are based on words or phrases he latches onto and sorts out on the spot. He is not a particularly quotable lyricist, but carries an obvious love of sounds and syllables. So it should seem somewhat odd that his album title would come from third track “Keeping the Flame”: “Make sure that your heart belongs to dreamers.”

Much like his words, certain instruments become—not necessarily afterthoughts—mere parts of his compositions. The saxophone doesn’t come under a spotlight but acts alongside the rhythm section in “Do You Wanna Rock & Roll with Me?” and “I Like, I Like.” Surely this is a result of his having recorded each instrument on his own and layering them during the recording process; he is not responsible for any one particular instrument, so he’s not fighting to play his piece.

And funnily, while a multi-instrumentalist, he possesses the style of a classic piano man, despite having recorded several albums' worth of sunny guitar pop. With To Dreamers in particular it becomes quite apparent that this sweet, palatable pop is his idea of rocking out, which—at nearly 40 years of age—sort of makes him suitable dad material. But he's consistent, that piano man who sings with a little swing, a hip croon that's been established for too long to bear the "hipster" title. And this is what makes him so inherently likable, even if there is nothing new and inventive in his music. [Sub Pop]

-China Bialos


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