This new album from Murray A. Lightburn of The Dears is the sort of release that instantly seeps into the soul. Full of rich, vaguely retro approaches to pop and rock forms, Hear Me Out is a fantastic record. Out on Dangerbird Records on Friday, fans of The Dears should embrace this too, even as the band's leader breaks new ground here.
"Centre of My Universe" sways with a hint of pre-Beatles-era soul, while the downright lush "I Give Up" takes things even further back, Lightburn turning the number into a sort of torch song. Elsewhere, the propulsive and insistent "To The Top" seems the sort of thing Weller would have written some years ago in The Style Council, with Murray's vocals here natural and perfect, while the title cut is all Al Green-wooziness, a heartfelt spin through the past. At his very best here on Hear Me Out, like on the aching "Changed My Ways", Murray A. Lightburn approaches the sort of territory once trod by Leonard Cohen. I think that makes perfect sense given that producer Howard Bilerman worked with Cohen. And some mention should be made of the other players here, including jazz guitarist Steve Raegele, and jazz bassist Rémi-Jean Leblanc, along with drummer Jeff Luciani (The Dears), and singers Catherine McCandless (Young Galaxy) and Ariel Engle (Broken Social Scene).
The line-up here is stellar but Murray A. Lightburn is the amazing performer at the center of this, and his warm and expressive vocals suggest past artists such as Sam Cooke and Van Morrison even as the material veers into newer, more modern territory. I can't think of many singers today who could caress something like "Anew" with such grace and power. Fans of the most recent Arctic Monkeys records, and that last superb album from Childhood, will love this one as much as I did.
Hear Me Out by Murray A. Lightburn is out on Friday via Dangerbird Records.
[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]