Joe Macre Releases New Music
With optimism blowing a strong wind into its sails, The Dream is Free opens with a title track that is more inspirational than anything else, courting us with a playfulness that is soon to be replaced with a cutting precision as powerful as it is abrupt. Joe Macre is bringing in the big guns for this follow-up to his 2021 LP Bullet Train, and although there’s been a lot of talk about the cerebral qualities springing up in indie rock and progressive music across the underground lately, there’s nothing that feels particularly trend-driven in this work at all.
“Tell Me” picks up the pace a bit, and while the battery its bassline issues is intense, it’s not overpowering for the synth to combat. Once the blue-collar grind of the guitar play is in focus, there’s nothing else we’re focusing on other than the relationship between the different string parts in the arrangement. The angst and calculated execution here is really provocative, but it doesn’t subtract from the lush tonal element produced in the instruments at all – it makes the whole sound Macre is developing even more exciting for the listeners to get lost in, especially as we get into “Ride or Die.”
“Ride or Die” and “Drop Me Off at the Rainbow” have a lot of camp in their concept, but they pave the way for a more rewarding listen in “Life in the Theater” that makes even the more brazen uses of indulgence here entirely excusable. If you’re going to exploit excess, Macre is more or less providing us with a masterclass in how to do so without drifting away from the creative center that we start off with in the title cut. “These Cool Years (Graduation)” could have been a little simpler, but its almost acrylic guitar parts inarguably provide the midsection of the tracklist with an identity I wouldn’t swap for anything.
“Not Looking Back Tonight” isn’t quite the learning statement piece that “Tomorrow is Today” is, but let’s face it, not very many tracks can be. It’s so obvious by this juncture in The Dream is Free that Macre is chasing ideas some might have told him were too big for his last LP, and from where I’m sitting, they’re every bit as exciting as they should be. His maturity as a songwriter is undisputable, as is his control when it comes to more complicated material like “Get Up, Crack Down” or “Tomorrow is Today.”
A most indulgent “The Dark Sky Sea” brings us across the finish line in The Dream is Free, but ironically enough, it’s this last bastion of decadence that really brings us full circle to where we started at the beginning of the tracklist like none of the other songs here could. It’s got the most powerful vocal on the record, but what’s more is that it actually gives us a sense of closure I couldn’t find in my listening sessions with Bullet Train. All in all, I think Joe Macre has grown a lot in the last year, and this LP proves as much.