Dylan Gilbert is back – not that he ever really left.
The ever-present Gilbert seems to always be playing shows, recording, or releasing a fun little nugget to tide his listeners over between LPs. And now Charlotte’s own singer-songwriter, always keeping things fresh with experimentation but grounded in solid pop hooks, has returned to record store shelves with his third full length release, Pangaea.
The new record, held to a trim ten tracks, is a well-crafted blend for new and old listeners alike. Pangaea provides the same signature sound Gilbert has been honing over his past releases, so newcomers will undoubtedly enjoy tracking back and discovering his older tunes. However, it also boasts a more mature and focused sound, sure to keep longtime fans intrigued.
Gilbert kick starts the album by reminding everyone of his undeniable ability to write an infectious pop song. “I Know I Love Her” is sure to be unknowingly hummed during daily tasks after even one listen, but its catchiness is never annoying. The opening track is easily one of the best, a deceptively simple song layered with beautiful harmonies and punctuated with an instant sing-along bridge and snappy ending.
Other standout tracks include the smooth, solid jam “My Name is Arthur,” toe-tapper “I Feel Lost,” and the beautiful closing song, “The Last Thing You Thought About.” None of the ten tracks, though, fit into the “filler” category. The modest length works in the records’s favor, with each song contributing to the album as a whole and showcasing both Gilbert’s natural songwriting skill and his flare for the slightly off-kilter. Pangaea’s songs offer brilliant little touches like the grandiose instrumental breaks in “Isabella,” the old school video game vibes of the opening riff in “What’s This All About?,” and the unexpected but sublime “My Name is Arthur” reprise and soulful saxophone to close “A Trip to the Zoo.”
One of the most interesting elements to this record is a vibe reminiscent of children’s songs, most apparent on “A Trip to the Zoo” and the title track. With the safari-esque chorus, “carnival barker” and train whistles of the former and the gang vocal sing-along and animal noises of the latter, a feeling of Story Time with Uncle Dylan really takes shape. This could potentially turn some people off, as it is a little odd and may take multiple listens to appreciate, but it is done with enough skill and genuine songwriting talent that it works and sets Pangaea apart from the average indie pop-rock record.
As always, Gilbert shows off a wide range of lush instrumentation. But even in the laundry list of odds and ends found on the album, the core instruments remain suitably prominent and strong. There’s a killer electric guitar lick or a slick bass line for every bell and whistle – and it all fits together tastefully. The drums are solid and fitting of each individual song, if a bit snare-heavy on the main groove of the otherwise stellar “My Name is Arthur.” Also, Gilbert has always had a strong voice, but his pipes seem to be even more polished this time around, especially in his smooth lower register.
Dylan Gilbert has produced his best album to date with Pangaea, which stands up – even benefits – from repeat listens. If you’re a fan of his previous work or looking to find some new jams, it’s definitely worth your time to support local music by checking it out.