Album: When Dreams End by Chris St. John


 When Dreams End is an unlikely marriage between Richard Hawley’s homely swoons and Nick Cave’s mythical atmospheres, watered down on both sides, with added sentimentality, and a subtle subtraction of direction. Chris St. John is a New Yorker. A prolific singer/songwriter who is at his third studio album of 2022. Hardworking, with a distinctive taste, and an undeniable ear for melodies and vibes, Chris St. John’s When Dreams End is a thoroughly enjoyable record of soft, acoustic folk. Half romantic, half tragic.

 Incredibly talented, Chris’s last album sees him expanding his output with a dazzling array of sounds, and a vastly varying style, that’s knit together by his reaffirming tenor. Composed, yet fluid. Heartful and romantic. Exquisitely produced. The album starts with the stunning Lost Without Your Love. This song is based on top of a cushiony string section, and a dreamy, airy composition that’s comforting and emotional. The slide guitar work is sensational, and the arrangement swells and contracts naturally, like heaving lungs. Sublime. Oh, Papa is a characterful lament for a lost father. This triumphant acoustic folk tune is lyrically loaded. A tearjerker. With an intriguing composition that remains familiar and approachable for most of the song, before a colorful interlude introduces a handful of unexpected chords that manage to aptly spice up the room. The solo is epic, tastefully distorted, short, and sweet.

 What’s Wrong With Me has a largely predictable sound, minus an ingenious violin that soars and wails, and another delicious solo. The lyrics tend to be overly simplistic, and while not devoid of meaning and depth, they can sound a little too easy at times. The title song is a grand song, based around a grand piano and an intricate acoustic guitar arrangement. the composition is simplistic and perfectly approachable, but the bass is mixed way too low in the mix, sometimes entirely disappearing, which is a missed opportunity. Growing stable and content, the song could have benefited from being a little shorter in length as it starts to feel a little timid towards the end, before a gorgeous shift in rhythm upends the arrangement and makes the length entirely worth it. Her Name Was Lilly is a softened down Murder Ballad. For those familiar with the work of Nick Cave, this piece has an undeniable flair that recalls to mind some of the finer days of his career. No murders here, thankfully, just a tragic composition and a stunning, dramatic string arrangement. Bitter Tears has the by-now-usual beautiful string arrangement. A sweet, soft, and sad closer to an album that’s full of heartbreak and emotion.