The Madison project’s grounded indie-pop debut strikes an impressive balance.
In December, Madison-based musician Bryan Myrold‘s project Air Cabin quietly released its debut. In the whirlwind of year-end coverage and planning, that release wound up flying under the radar. The songwriting on I Don’t Wanna Dream demands not only inspection but investment, pulling off lines like “I go uphill with little men, who I know could kill if I made them, but I’m all too waned to claim my power now.” Independent from the curiously plaintive approach to lyricism, Myrold’s expansive playing stretches I Don’t Wanna Dream’s scope towards psychedelia’s boundless plains.
Though Myrold recorded I Don’t Wanna Dream on his lonesome, the project’s live rotation features members who have gained notoriety in Madison’s punk scene for playing in acts like Bob Loblaw (Dallas Reilly) and Treatment (Liam Casey). All of the contributing members—a group rounded out by bassist Logan Langley—helped shape some aspects of the songs in the writing process, though none play the record. Over the course of 10 tracks, Air Cabin manages to conjure up an unpredictable and endearing indie-pop record that skews closer to Milwaukee’s Sundial Mottos than any of the live members’ various projects. Lead-off single “Only One” stands as a perfect example of the band’s slacker aesthetic and irrepressible charm.
A winsome, mid-fi haziness defines much of the proceedings, helping to temper the urgency of the record’s various narratives by supplementing them with a cozier aesthetic. From various forms of death (“Empty,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Bad Yet,” “Rainbow Bridge”) to hyper-anxious insecurity (“We Can’t Release,” “Rosy”) to relearning how to navigate reality (“Drying Out,” “Want It Back”), there’s a considerable weight and a profound spitefulness to be found in the lyrics on I Don’t Wanna Dream. But for all the subject matter’s heaviness, the record’s full of instrumentation that sounds carefree and weightless. Balancing those two elements as successfully as Air Cabin provides a grounding that propels I Don’t Wanna Dream to fascinating places.
On album highlight “Drying Out,” Myrold lays a solid foundation with a sparse, melancholic intro before transforming the track into a punishing mid-tempo onslaught that coaxes the project’s underlying sense of aggression to a striking forefront. I Don’t Wanna Dream is full of those nuances, with each track capitalizing on, roughly, 5-minute run times to house unlikely marriages with aplomb. Myrold’s penchant for subtle versatility keeps the record engaging from its first notes to its last line, with the latter being where I Don’t Wanna Dream gets its name.
While Myrold told Tone Madison via email that much of I Don’t Wanna Dream could be characterized within the loose confines of an imagined breakup, the record extends itself into more ambitious territories as it progresses. Whether that’s a song about a dog’s death, written from the perspective of the dog (a spiritual sibling to John K. Samson’s Virtute saga) or the macro-reconciliatory nature of the closing track, there’s plenty of evidence in I Don’t Wanna Dream’s back half alone that Myrold’s got more on the mind than a simple relationship dynamic.