You may have heard the name Dead Lakes in the last few years when the ‘New Language’ EP felt like a refreshing topic in the scope of alternative music releases; you may have come across a music commentator reacting to a song on YouTube. For others, the Washington-based quartet’s debut album ‘daydreamer’ releasing tomorrow very well may make for an exciting introduction to their likeable sound.
The title track is both a calculated risk and a collage of sounds that serves as a unique first look into the album’s universe. Upon pressing play, footsteps, a starting engine, television static, and distorted beats string together, building up to a buzzing synth melody that’s just enough of a cliffhanger to influence the need to keep listening (more on that soon). “daydreamer” as a song leaves a lot up for listener interpretation, as though it’s intended for assigning one’s own mental scenery as the backdrop for what they hear.
Curiosity of what’s to come is met with immediate clarity on the following track. The vocoded croon of “daydreamer waiting in your dream world, just the open road and you,” gives way to the album’s first attention-grabbing chorus. “Strange Juice” can and should be a textbook example of the band playing to their strengths. It’s ridden with hooks, the synergy between members is not just present, but palpable, and frontman Sumner Peterson delivers a standout performance— even a slightly muffled laugh in the bridge amplifies how genuine the vocal delivery here feels.
A bouncing synth gives way to the louder and more upbeat song “Tongue Planet”, one sure to have listeners bobbing their heads along by the end. Straightforward and relatable, it discusses the value of going with the flow in favor of looking forward to create a better future.
Once a single, now one of the band’s most popular songs to date, “Wrong Way” and its insanely high replay value deserve to be recognised. Peterson’s versatility as a vocalist shines when he assumes a stylised cadence that walks a fine line between melodic rap and pop, and Somber ballad “onyx drive” continues to highlight his abilities while maintaining the album’s pace.
Layered with slightly dissonant guitar notes, bass-heavy beats, and shimmering electronic embellishments, “stamina” at its core is a hard-hitting chorus-driven satisfying listen many look for in the genre (it’s also pretty heart-wrenching). Torn between holding onto a shred of hope that things will be what they once were and self-reconciling the need to move on, the song navigates the vulnerable and sometimes messy feelings that come with facing the reality of a relationship ultimately changing for the worst. In addition to being a high point, “stamina” is about as lyrically dark as ‘daydreamer’ gets, and the topics discussed throughout it feel on-brand in comparison to the band’s past releases. It’s safe to say Dead Lakes are most in their element when they’re penning songs from an honest emotional place that inspires introspection and relatability.
Temporarily relief from the intensity of the former track is found in a simplistic concoction of electronics, lo-fi sounds, and danceable tempo on “believer” before “hold back” signifies an anthemic climax. The words “I don’t want to hold back, I already have,” confront the importance of unapologetically reclaiming a sense of self that might have gotten lost as a result of past experiences and encourages living your truth.
Tracks on the back end “ad nauseam” and “drown it out” are best listened to as a pair; the former reflects on self-doubt while the latter is more aggressive, optimistic, and works to find resolution. The infectiously groovy flow of “quicksand” drags listeners into a world of its own and doesn’t shy away from throwing hooky lyrics left and right. Ambient closer “deceiver” echoes the words “you make it so hard to love” enough to get stuck in your head upon first listen and ends the album on a soft, spacious, and ultimately appropriate note.
With this release, familiar listeners will find themselves enjoying the band more, while new listeners will feel compelled to give it a second listen or even delve deeper into their catalogue. It’s comforting to know Dead Lakes haven’t abandoned their innovative fusion of genres that put them on the release radars of many to begin with, providing a polished debut album that’s intriguing, extremely replayable, and as fresh as it is nostalgic.