Tex Crick has a rare ability to sound wistful without any sense of pain or longing. On Sweet Dreamin’, the Australian songwriter’s second LP for Mac DeMarco’s record label, his languid vocals take on a more prominent role as he croons over pop-piano melodies and humming analog synths lines that meet him like a warm embrace. Even with his newfound bravado, he is never looking to steal the spotlight with his voice or his perspective. This is peak park-hang music, genial and accomplished without trying to get complicated.
Having played with Kirin J Callinan, Connan Mockasin, Weyes Blood, and Iggy Pop, Crick is no stranger to the ensemble approach. On Sweet Dreamin’, however, he recorded nearly every instrument by himself at his home base in Tokyo. (His sole collaborator is Miles Myjavec, who recorded the drum parts remotely from Australia.) Even as his own backing band, Crick conjures up a loose, lingering jam-session sound that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Songs are mostly under four minutes, and the fleeting moments of indulgence, like the ragtime interlude “Alley Cat” and contemplative “Drifting Off Again,” only add to the album’s casual atmosphere.
Crick’s vocal delivery, hushed yet emotive, resembles the showmanship of Boz Scaggs at a more intimate scale. He’ll have fun within the mumbled scats on “Mulberry Wine,” rhyming “take it to go” with “Picasso,” but every declaration of love sounds effortless, with nary a vocal strain. “I’ll be waiting for ya/You bring my dreams to life,” he sings to a faraway sweetheart on “All I’m Dreaming Of.” Even when his narratives imply star-crossed romance, Crick sounds more like he’s looking forward to a nice vacation. His sentiments aren’t especially original, but he imbues them with enough charm to make the optimism believable.
Though Crick’s piano is at the center of most of the album’s arrangements, the most interesting flourishes come from other instruments. It’s a small joy to hear the spurts of cowbell mixed into opener “Easy Keepers,” followed by the slinky bassline and rollicking synths of “Silly Little Things.” The richest tapestry materializes on “Barefoot Blues,” the closest Sweet Dreamin’ gets to a climax. Over a guitar lick inspired by Hawaiian lap steel music, Crick recalls a vivid affair that culminated in a serenade at a tiki bar. Appropriately, the most realized, romantic scene on the album is a memory of a live performance: “Oh, what a beautiful sound/It was heaven with two feet.”
“Barefoot Blues” also stands out for its sense of place. Absent from Sweet Dreamin’ are the ambient urban sounds that added a touch of realism to Crick’s previous album, 2021’s Live in…New York City. While the music does evoke a cozy home studio—you can practically feel the carpet under your feet—the more anonymous setting can make the album feel a little shapeless. This won’t necessarily be a detriment: No matter where you are in the world, Sweet Dreamin’ sounds perfectly content to be a tasteful, unassuming date-night backdrop.
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