There’s certainly a whirlwind of “gender” surrounding Portland’s little star now provisional of a third release as a band, the Even in Dreams EP. Julian Morris is, after all, transgender, KEXP featured one of their tracks in 2017 in the form of “Song of the Gay” (I think girls like cute and cuddly things sometimes, but only when they don’t like them back), and just looking at the overall band picture there’s really no member which doesn’t jibe with the whole androgyny thing.
But rock and roll, at the end of the day, even if it is twee pop which I believe Even in Dreams to be composed of (and more successfully so than the band’s former stuff, at that), is essentially gender-ambiguous. Androgyny can’t be a SHTICK, in other words.
So I guess this review is going to be about how (first of all I really like the song title because it reminds me of that trippy Sonic Youth skit) “Providence” has some of the most hypnotic lead-guitar work I’ve ever graced, all the more commendable for being a sort of “exercise in minimalist repetition” like cokemachineglow.com used to say of HEALTH, an electro-rock outfit hailing from down the coast in LA. Sure, all this stuff isn’t as interesting as sex. But you can’t get fired or forced to sell your team for listening to music, so that’s nice, I guess.
And sex is a repeated theme in Even in Dreams, but so is, uh, sleeping under cars? When I saw this band’s name I immediately thought of Big Star and the comparison might be even more compelling than you think: for all of Alex Chilton’s stadium-rocker persona (drinking ‘til he drops, mentioning “God,” etc.), he always just a little bit had the tendency to come off as a spoiled little trust-fund stoner brat, albeit one with a charmingly simple classic rock moxie, as well as some rubbery fingers on that guitar. It was like, while creating amusing tunes, they were also out to deliberately prove that they didn’t deserve to be big stars.
little star, you might say, is a complete opposite even given this irony: Julian Morris makes the resounding impression that this stuff is the delicate progeny of his most genuine form of muses. He even makes mention lyrically that he’s either completely homeless or very hard-up, and emotionally destitute perhaps as well, given to idyllic drives to the ocean on which he’s apparently able to clear his head of all the worry his life is constantly bestowing him, or even just to mentally escape entirely. In other words, little star’s music is more SERIOUS. At no point on Even in Dreams, neither, does it fail: the title track gets things reiterating with some melancholy, Joy Division-summoning midtempo rock (I like this band way better than Joy Division, for the record), “Jacks” soaks the listener’s neck in more liquid-y guitar effect for an ambient interlude, and “Waltz” is a nice little classical piano outro. So even at only four tracks, Even in Dreams offers us four different styles of popular Caucasian music, the biggest drawback of which probably being its shortness in length.