Ian M. Bailey – Songs To Dream Along To: Album Review

Sunshiny jangle pop awash with Rickenbacker melodies and harmonic charm from Ian M. Bailey.

ian m bailey

Release Date: 15th October 2021

Label: Kool Kat Musik

Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital

Now this is really going to mess up my unofficial internal system of classification. From the start it smacks of what I call Glaswegiana, that impeccably Caledonian version of prime 60s/70s Californian influences, all Byrds and Big Star, 12 string guitars and three part harmonies. Yet Bailey is English, from Lancashire, if I am not mistaken. With a small yet perfectly formed track record, both as himself and, in a duo with Charlotte Newman, as Lost Doves, this project represents an extension of his earlier collaboration with Daniel Wylie, the erstwhile Cosmic Rough Rider. Who is, clearly, a card holding Glaswegiana artist.

The pair, rather than a duo, are more a songwriting partnership, and spent last summer coming up with the EP, Shots Of Sun, four songs that were exactly that, especially when released in the British January of 2021. Whilst Bailey sings and plays most of the instruments, he credits Wylie with the sparks of inspiration that lead to the completed songs. He then put it all together, no small feat, in his own home studio. On the back that impetus, all four included here, come another seven, the glorious blend of influences making for a winter highlight. Aside the aforementioned, there are distinct hits of other bands, notably R.E.M., Jayhawks, America, even the Beatles. If you are a fan of Teenage Fanclub, or even the Lightning Seeds, this album should be on your Christmas list. Hell, why wait, Bonfire Night should do nicely.

Opening with a salvo of Rickenbacker and swirling keys, This Is Not A Feeling is an infectious blast, Bailey’s voice treble tracked into as good an approximation of McGuinn and co. as you’ll hear this year, the organ hook one the Fannies would kill for. It is a beautiful ear worm of a song, the record taking then no prisoners with the effervescent warning of Take It Or Leave It and the more thoughtful A Place To Live. The former exudes a beautiful 60’s feel with some lovely synthy brass touches for good measure, the latter a lighter touch of acoustic whimsy, the twelve string electric adding some extra build. If the tune carries a distant whiff of Wild Mountain Thyme that is a good thing. I’m hooked.

Everything Will Be Alright sets out onto the (possibly Ventura) highway, the drums driving this away from being merely a wallow in nostalgic tropes, the coda showing well the marriage between the chimes and the engine room. By contrast, the string laden The Sound Of Her Voice has little percussion, beyond some only slightly jarring electronic beats, and is another tune to look longingly out the window to. And is that sitar that creeps in toward the close? String credits are courtesy Alan Gregson, who also remastered Bailey’s production for the whole project.

I’m Not The Enemy is another perfect marriage between rhythm and Rickenbacker, a hugely commercial romp, and crying out to be a single, if singles still meant anything. Which is a good time to slip in the odd interlude of ‘Midday at Hope Lodge’, that sitar, or sitar sound back again, for just under two minutes of charming quirk.

What’s Happening Now at first seems the first track to lose momentum, even if the multi-tracked vocals offer a familiarly warming glow. (I suspect, however, that it’s a grower: think some of the Croz’s more ethereal works. Come back in a month and it’ll be my favourite.) Just Like A Child (Dreamcatcher) hangs on to this feel, with Bailey using a different timbre for his vocal, now more Gene Clark than Roger McGuinn.

Slow Down, the penultimate track, doesn’t, and should draw attention to the exhilaration Bailey and Wylie must have felt, swapping ideas back and forth. (Lose the claps here, tho’, lads, that dating the disc way more than the retro-guitar/vocal interplay). Which leaves only the space for the swirl of The Best Out Of Me, which closes the disc on a further wave of wistfulness; the layered minor chords leave you wanting more. The texture here, for those sick of the Byrds references, more Karl Wallinger’s World Party.

This has to be one of the more uplifting sets I have heard all year. Yes, the influences are unashamedly worn on Bailey (and Wylie)’s sleeve, but this is so much more than a wallow in nostalgia. Ideas are picked up and well and truly run with, lovingly, over any copycat facsimile exercise. You like jangle? You’ll love this.

Listen to the opening song from Ian M. Bailey’s new album below.

Ian M. Bailey: Website / Twitter / Facebook

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