Fernando Perdomo has always worn his pop-bleeding heart on his sleeve. His band Dreaming in Stereo is as much a tribute to pop rock as it is a workshop for contributing to the canon. With the band’s upcoming release, Dreaming in Stereo 2 (due out Feb. 15th), Perdomo and company continue to mine the pop vein with Perdomo’s flawless guitar work lighting the way.
For the uninitiated, Perdomo’s music nods unapologetically to cult pop bands like The Posies and Jellyfish, who themselves drew heavily on even earlier pop-rock bands like The Byrds, Big Star, and The Move — all simple sounding music with complicated infrastructures. Perdomo is also quite vocal about his admiration for singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren. (I hear the influence on Perdomo mainly in Rundgren’s first three albums from the early 70s).
To my ear, DiS 2’s nearest relative is Jellyfish’s 1990 Bellybutton, with its bittersweet melodies that seamlessly alternate between major and minor moods within complex arrangements. And while, as a whole, Dreaming In Stereo’s upcoming album does not attain Bellybutton’s catchiness, it does show the band has the talent to get there.
“Fill My Sky”, the album’s lead-off track, showcases Perdomo’s ability to transport the listener with his axe, in this case, beneath the shade of an ominous sky. On the surface, “Fill My Sky” is a metaphysical love song filled with a series of rhetorical questions — “Can you be my sun?/Can you be my moon?/Can you change my life?” — but the song’s yearning takes on a tone of impending darkness at the 2:15 mark, leading to a rip-roaring Perdomo solo that suggests the singer isn’t looking for affirmation.
“Fill My Sky”
“Enough’s Enough” is a creature of benevolence, delivering sheer joy with dreamlike guitar echoes and an accompanying viola. Perdomo’s voice is at its best here, stretching the limit of his range just enough to take the listener to a prettier plateau. Once again, Perdomo delivers on guitar, taking over with a melodious solo at 2:30 and finishing with a series of triumphant whips at 2:57.
“Saturday Song”, written and sung by Marisol Garcia, is straight-up pay dirt. This gorgeous arrangement is like a marriage of Fiona Apple and Jellyfish with Garcia’s smoky voice highlighted by the arrangement’s push-and-pull of love lost and perseverance. When she sings, “Baby, I’m gone, with my Saturday song”, you believe she’s moving on to big and better things, and you already miss her.
“The Traveler”, a song partly inspired by a conversation Perdomo had with Jellyfish’s Roger Manning, is a somewhat conventional tune that surprises with an awesome synth flair at 1:41. The refrain — “I’m the traveler/Woah, oh, oh” – will lodge in your brain like a rambler happy for the roof over his head.
“Part of Your Life” begins like an Israel Kamikawiwo’ole song, both Hawaiian and bittersweet. Perdomo’s voice is more intimate on this track, sounding almost like Elvis Costello’s baritone. At 1:41, the song transitions from sparse to big-production with a gorgeous Beatlesesque bridge.
“Music All Around Me” is a touching song titled after actor Dudley Moore’s alleged last words. The song reflects the beauty and optimism of someone who, while succumbing to the horror of a degenerative brain disease, heard music everywhere. Perdomo sings the famous last words and adds, “And it’s time to go.” Moore, himself a composer and pianist, surely would have enjoyed the heart-wrenching strings at the 1:53 mark.
In “Goodwill”, a charming instrumental interlude, Perdomo injects angular, Thurston Moore-like guitar work into an otherwise Christmassy ditty and somehow makes it work.
“Summer is Gone” is a fairly static song, though it reveals its potential at the 2:34 mark when dissonance rears its ugly head. The song’s pretty strings could’ve used a bit more of that ugly dissonance earlier on, much in the same way that Jim O’Rourke worked Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
A bare, moody piano piece that bleeds into a swaying bit of psychadelia, “Open the Door” is a two-minute haunt of a mantra that could have come straight from the mind of Brian Wilson.
“Standing Still” builds on Perdomo’s filtered voice and takes off about 50 seconds in. This track sounds like a 90s Britpop revival tune, but Perdomo’s guitar and the string section (somehow they don’t get old) save it from sounding stale.
When Perdomo sings “Gonna sleep until tomorrow” on the track of the same name, I can’t help but sing back, “Would you still remember me?” But in spite of the Free Bird reminder, “Gonna Sleep Until Tomorrow” is a pretty fantastic song that further reveals Perdomo’s Britpop affinity.
The album aptly ends with “Lullaby”, which earns its title with uncloying sweetness and hints at Big Star’s acoustically-drenched album Third/Sister Lovers.
In the end, Dreaming in Stereo has put together a mature mix of guitar-driven pop rock with watertight arrangements and palpable passion. Perdomo’s obsession with pop is the lifeblood of his music, and his ability to come up with fresh ideas from old styles should have us hearing music all around us for years to come.
The CD release party for Dreaming in Stereo 2 is scheduled for Feb. 20th at The Stage in the Design District. You can RSVP on Facebook.