If there was one undiscovered artist you should check out, it’s Dan Bauer. Despite a seamless rock opera album, a single-take video where he manages to shuffle between guitar, bass, and drums with help from some lookalikes, and several hilarious skits, Bauer remains criminally undiscovered. But hopefully, Love, Dan will change all this.
The short of the new record is that it continues Bauer’s love for long songs, candid lyrics, and crafting incredible hooks. But there are some key differences than his earlier work as well. First, the production is more nuanced and uses samples, audio clips, voiceovers, panning, vocal doubling, and a host of other things that add incredible depth and vibrancy to the songs. Secondly, Bauer shows a higher range of… well, everything. There’s falsetto, groovy bass, adventurous synths, and a powerful lyrical arc. This is definitely a radio-friendly release, though not in a bad way. It’s catchy and fun, but it doesn’t sacrifice lyrical substance or songwriting integrity. It’s worth noting this album has had the longest release cycle so far and see Bauer relocating from New Hampshire to Nashville to further pursue his passion.
Love, Dan is a fun listen. But under its bright veneer lies Bauer’s biggest asset: his unfiltered approach. Some artists feign honesty, but Bauer isn’t shy to tell us how much the chicken tenders sucked at the psych hospital, how his friend died young from drugs, or even how he found confidence in himself. There are pockets of explicit language, but they never feel flippant. But this also manifests musically as he treads between piano-rock hits, alternative anthems, and even stripped-down ballads. He’s not confined to any particular stylistic limitations.
This is a meaty album in more ways than one. It’s exactly an hour long, with several songs topping six minutes and one running over eight minutes. These songs see the biggest payoff with extended crescendo endings. Throughout, Bauer subverts expectations but not in any sort of pretentious manner. Song titles like “U.G.L.Y.” and “Ass Like That 2” might seem superficial, vain, or sleazy. But the latter is an exploration of learning to be someone you could love, a wholesome twist that stands out against accompanying samples of “Baby Got Back” and “Ms. New Booty”. Then there’s “Magic When It Comes Together”, the album’s first single that saw a major curveball when the movie theatre that inspired issued a cease and desist.
Despite the “single” nature of many songs, this is certainly an album to take in as a whole. The first three tracks flow seamlessly, with Bauer showing self-awareness as he quips that there won’t be music all the way throw this time. It’s a nod to The After Life, his previous album that acted as one huge song.
But even though the music doesn’t flow seamlessly, the themes certainly do. The album’s final track, “I Don’t Think It’s a Nightmare Anymore”, plays back the hooks of its predecessors in succession. It’s the sort of artistic touch that has a big pay off for attentive listeners. Hearing the energetic high points of the album back to back like this feels like a microcosm of what Bauer did on The After Life.
The album’s weak points are limited, but they do keep this from being a flawless record. “Magic When It Comes Together” is well-intentioned, and it’s not bad overall. However, the production does a feel a bit weaker and the new chorus lacks the same energy as the one that was discarded. “ShaNaNa Days” is a tribute song of sorts to carefree classics, but it feels a bit out of place in some ways. Lastly, “Croc Kills the Wildebeest” is a sentimental ballad comparing bad habits to putting yourself in the way of predators – which is a lyrical highlight but the stripped-down nature is admittedly unexpected.
But none of these tracks could really be considered bad. That’s more a statement concerning the strength of the other tracks. “When I Wake Up” through “Good & Good” is a gauntlet of non-stop gems. And “Brighter Days” definitely shines in the first trilogy of tracks. This is impressive given the length of the album – every additional second becomes an added risks, and longer albums tend to be spotty. The fact Bauer delivers so consistently makes this album a joy to listen to.
Amid all of this is a heartfelt autobiography of sorts, one of heartbreak, suicidal ideations, and vices – but one with a real redemption arc that is undeniably honest and human. Bauer invites listeners into his joys and sorrows and the content is crushing at times. But this helps effectively bridge the digital gap between artist and audience that seems to worsen as time goes on. Songs like “Brighter Days” and “MTL” are especially powerful in this respect. And on the fun side, “Good & Good” and several of the singles help keep things from being too overbearing.
Love, Dan is Dan Bauer’s best album to date. It’s a love letter to life itself and serves as sort of a companion piece to his earlier release Love, Muffin – albeit, not overtly. Production has been cranked up a few notches and it’s the auxiliary elements and samples that add a level of depth that most rock and indie-level pop artists just don’t have. And now with his move to Nashville, he’ll be set to get these songs in front of more people quickly. Preorder the record on Bandcamp and check it out everywhere when it drops on 10/10 (a Monday).