Dylan McDonald and the Avians
Fueled by Dreams of the Future
Led by singer/songwriter Dylan McDonald, the Avians divide their time between Santa Barbara and Nashville, Tennessee. Their first album Fueled by Dreams of the Future is a ten song collection covering significant stylistic ground without ever losing direction. They are fully immersed in traditional rock and pop forms while retaining strong roots affectations that deepen the songwriting, but their secret weapon in selling even the hoariest of structures is lead singer McDonald’s voice. It proves itself a versatile instrument from track to track, as equally at home with the pop rock leanings of “Broken Lullabies” as it later is with the bluesy suggestiveness required for “Evil Perfume”.
The former track, “Broken Lullabies” kicks off Fueled by Dreams of the Future with a sprightly kick and strong vocal melody. McDonald’s voice ably embodies a range of emotions, but perhaps none is quite as convincing as the light bluesy whine he can conjure. He projects displeasure well. The track has a lighter weight feel than later songs and seems like an oddly unassertive choice in light of the album’s late barnburners. The title cut plays like a much heavier song despite the lighter instrumental touch. The difference is why originality works and clichés, while occasionally entertaining, do not last. McDonald and his band bring the song together slowly, developing each part to its fullest, and there’s no feeling that there’s no effort to fit into a particular formula. Instead, the musicians create a memorable mood and the song pays off big for listeners.
At heart, “She Really Burns Me Up” is just a roadhouse blues tune refurbished for a modern spin. McDonald makes a tacit confession about the song’s misfired simplicity by including flashes of organ, but it feels like a construction rather than something organic. McDonald hits all of his marks – it grooves, has power to burn, and benefits from an all-around commanding performance, but unlike earlier songs, its structured feel lacks much passion and, instead, seems planned and plotted out. “Love Can Never Be The Same” is an absurd, all the meters are pegged in red song. Battering ram drums and instrumental swells sound laid on top of each other and there’s no way to untangle it. There’s another direct and solid track here buried by questionable production.
“Stone Tree Fairy” will tantalize some listeners. There is nothing risqué about this bit of bulldozer, but the churning riff seems to teeter on the precipice of climbing higher. It never quite makes it, but the song nevertheless gives listeners another chance to hear McDonald’s vocals at their best. This is a tantalizing album as a whole. It invites some comparisons to promising, but still underdeveloped, debuts from major new talents, but more often than not, Fueled by Dreams of the Future bristles with astonishing breadth.
– Michael Saulman