An ambling ballad, seemingly from another era, with something simultaneously assertive and vulnerable about it. The Los Angeles-based MacRae has a resonant if trembly baritone; singing about a breakdown of communication, his lyrics sound more like things that are spoken than are sung, an impression amplified by the erratic way the lines sometimes scan with the melody. The accompaniment is simple, almost homely, but forceful—a strummed acoustic guitar, a bottom-heavy drum kit, a finger-picked electric guitar. The message here is: I am a plainspoken man, singing a plainspoken song.
Well, if only. Listen carefully and see how the words unfold with the faulty momentum of a heat-of-the-moment exchange. The atmosphere of the song implies pronouncement, but the words themselves offer mostly bewilderment. First, it’s: “Wait/I’m coming this way/With one thing left to say to you”; soon, it’s: “Wait/You can’t leave on that note/Why must you speak in constant code?”; in conclusion it’s “Hey/I don’t know/These are age-old questions.” Those three lines together are so much the crux of the song that rest of the words are basically false trails, communicating foundering without focus. Any spurned lover impelled to use the word “egregious” in a sentence—never mind a song!—has his head spun around too much to be convincing.
Dundrearies is MacRae’s second full-length album, following up his 2008 self-titled debut. The word dundrearies, you might not know, refers to a style of long, bushy sideburns or muttonchop whiskers and is taken from the character Lord Dundreary in a 19th-century play called Our American Cousin, best known to history as the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when assassinated in 1865.