Dean Wareham has been a weighty player in indie music since the late eighties, first with Galaxie 500, and then in the much-loved, recently-disbanded Luna. Wareham & Luna bassist Britta Phillips, already one of indie music’s best looking couples, have put together some mellow, melodic indie pop, with an excellent mix between them on vocals.
While their earlier releases were largely Luna by any other name (especially the guitar-driven techno-rock of 2003’s L’Avventura), with their first, full post-Luna album, Back Numbers, they’re now setting out on their own.
One could say that with this album, Wareham has proven that he ain’t going anywhere, except that in some ways, he has: the real break-through performances on this album come from his better half. Best known to the world at large for her voice work in animation (she was 80’s cartoon singer/rocker/superhero Jem, and currently is "Bloberta Puppington" on Adult Swim’s Moral Orel), Phillips really comes into her own on Back Numbers, whether in the reverbed lappop on opening "Singer Sing", an almost-Wareham-like sad irony with "Wait For Me", or her stand-out flow from light and airy verses to upbeat chorus cries in "You Turned My Head Around".
What’s more, Phillips & Wareham create some incredible duets on Back Numbers – not something alternative music is known for. The country-fried "Say Goodnight" is the indie-pop answer to the classic country duet, but the best match-up of their voices comes on "The Sun Is Still Sunny", which also best encapsulates Dean & Britta’s ability to be airy and mellow without being too "lovely". Wareham delivers his own tracks, including his own lap-pop-ish "Words You Used To Say" (from the 2006 EP of the same name), but the rest largely feels like stripped-down versions of lesser Luna tracks.
Marriage and age had already served Wareham well in music: unlike the devastating surprise of his departure from Galaxie 500, Luna’s 2005 break-up was quite amicable. Perhaps their work together on score pieces for Noah Baumbach’s tale of parental divorce, The Squid & The Whale, has done something special for Dean & Britta, because on Back Numbers, Wareham and Phillips prove a steady and productive influence on one another.
MP3 Stream: "You Turn My Head Around"