Brett Dennen is one of the most exciting, well-rounded up-and-coming singer-songwriters on the scene these days. His songs are earnest beyond earnest, like little sonic pockets of hope. So it's only fitting that his latest disc is titled Hope for the Hopeless. On it, he grooves his way through danceable slow jams that comment on everything from love to heaven and the endless quest for peace.
Discovering 'Hope for the Hopeless'
It's always difficult to review an album like Hope for the Hopeless
, because it's so inviting. Like a warm, deeply colored sunset, you just want to walk toward it. Crank it up and close your eyes, groove away. Brett Dennen's voice is just that soothing. His lyrics are just that smooth and natural, earnest and heart-warming. When he asks in "Heaven" (purchase/download
), "Is there a home for the homeless? / Is there hope for the hopeless?" you just want to get moving and make a little home and hope.
Femi Kuti's presence on "Make You Crazy" (purchase/download) is surprising while still making perfect sense. The supreme sense of spirituality churned up by that song—the album's first single—seems to pervade every other facet of the disc. Even when Dennen sings about lost love on "When She's Gone" (purchase/download), there's a sense that the hurt and regret he's singing about is an impenetrable, long-lasting spiritual condition.
One of the Year's Best
Dennen told me in a recent interview
that he made a very conscious decision to aim in a more commercial direction with this record, not for the acclaim so much as for the knowledge that more people would hear it. If that was his quest, he certainly nailed that universal appeal, and did so without losing the integrity of the songs.
It's easy to compromise something when you aim for that kind of universal appeal, but Dennen's natural gift seems to be the ability to creatively transcend boundaries. His music is, in fact, intrinsically transcendent. Any production value added for the sake of reaching a larger audience simply results in making the songs soar higher, closer to that hope he's talking about.