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Dear Rabbit return with new album Shy


Dear Rabbit, which started out as Rence Liam’s onstage alter ego and has since expanded to a proper indie-rock band, has just released its fourth album, Shy. - JOHN MOODY
  • John Moody
  • Dear Rabbit, which started out as Rence Liam’s onstage alter ego and has since expanded to a proper indie-rock band, has just released its fourth album, Shy.
Rence Liam may be a familiar face in the local music scene, but given that the singer-songwriter’s project Dear Rabbit seems to be constantly on the road, playing shows and festivals throughout the United States and Canada, it’s always a welcome occasion when they make a hometown appearance.

Dear Rabbit’s show at the Side Door on Saturday, Nov. 24, which will also feature a performance by Briffaut, provides even more reason to celebrate, as it marks the release of Dear Rabbit’s fourth album, Shy. And while you can pick up a cassette copy at the release show, the album’s digital incarnation is available right now.

Debating whether to wait for the cassette or dive in right now? Well, either way, listeners have a very rewarding experience ahead, as Shy feels like the next evolutionary step in Dear Rabbit’s ever-eclectic sound. Their previous effort, the 2016 LP They’re Not Like You, moved Liam’s songs from something of an “accordion troubadour” niche into a full-bodied rock sound.

It must be said that Dear Rabbit’s earlier efforts had an unmistakably compelling sound, nestled somewhere between the Old World and the Weird New America with its accordion, brass, and piano-led lilt. (Please stop asking him about the accordion, though.)

However, the more recent indie-rock treatment openly draws upon Liam’s varied influences, such as Guided by Voices, Sparklehorse, Prince and XTC, adding immediacy and a visceral power to the songs. His songwriting and presentation have drawn comparisons in the past to Tom Waits, Jonathan Richman and Roky Erickson, but with more sonic room to breathe, it becomes apparent that something is at work in the music that is less easily pigeonholed. If They’re Not Like You acted as a stylistic transition, Shy, contrary to its name, is a deftly confident musical statement enacted by a band at the height of its powers.
Shy almost feels like a concept album, with many songs blending seamlessly together — in both a musical and thematic sense. Bookended by the songs “I Was Too Shy” and “If You’re Shy,” the lyrics found on the album hold a distinct poignancy. Liam’s confessions of growing up as a shy kid, recollections of family, sunrises over the Brooklyn Bridge, and tales of suffering at the local watering hole showcase an eye for detail while finding the sublime in everyday imagery. And, as we’ve come to expect, there are two songs about dogs, which should please longtime followers of Dear Rabbit’s whimsical and guileless qualities.

Musically, the overall sound of Shy feels unbound by any particular era, which is refreshing in a landscape where plenty of pop music gets clearly stratified by its influences. It’s a sound that can freely cross in and out of decades of rock ’n’ roll to repurpose various useful sounds into the vibrant eclecticism of Dear Rabbit. The ramshackle garage-rock of “Nice Doggy, I’ll Listen to You” and “Loneliness” manages to hold a wellspring of emotion behind the playful rave-up tempo. “Losing,” meanwhile, practically drips with soul, and the wild fuzz-guitar solo on the ragged ballad “When I Get to the Next Town I Don’t Know If You Will Write Me a Letter” makes its lo-fi aesthetic feel downright majestic.
Shy was recorded, like its predecessor, with producer Adam Hawkins at Right Heel Music, and features contributions by multi-instrumentalist John Moody, bassists Suzi Kang and Jeronimo Sexton, and drummers Mason Macura and Jason Mushinski.

The album arrived on the heels of another characteristically busy year for the band, which featured shows throughout North America, performances with Esmé Patterson, and an appearance at the enormous Boise-based Treefort Music Fest. In September 2017, the band also recorded a session with prominent indie showcase Daytrotter.

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