The Dreamer
Maximum Sunshine Records

Sometimes sounding like a mix of Ryan Adams and Wilco (minus the experimental noise), Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller has a tendency to depart from the alt-country side of things when it comes to his solo work. Teamed with producer Jon Brion from 2002’s The Instigator through his 2009 self-titled effort, he has always used his solo albums to freely explore the more indie-rock and pop side of his musical psyche. Miller self-produced his latest, The Dreamer, his PledgeMusic-financed first release on his own label, but Brion’s influence seems to have made a lasting impression on him. The Dreamer maintains some of Brion’s softer techniques, making the album, for the most part, a subtly arranged, mid-tempo singer-songwriter pop collection with hints of country and rock. But by swapping the orchestral element (if not the ever-present, piano-charged baroque touches) for more bare-bones acoustic arrangements, Miller’s produced his most roots-infused solo venture to date. While “Out of Love,” “Sleepwalkin’” and “Complicated Man” sound a bit like they’re out of the jangly, darkness-tinged Rough Trade Records playbook, the pedal-steel sprinkled “As Close As I Came To Being Right” (with Rosanne Cash),  “Love Grows,” and “Sweet Dreams” all reflect Miller’s Americana affection. Still, this often sulky LP, featuring whispery harmony from pal Rachael Yamagata, reveals Miller’s lovelorn tenderness, which is nicely offset by a slight gravelly vocal rasp. Abandoning his usual cleverly penned lyrics in favor of a simpler, more personal approach, Miller has dreamed up a solid assortment of songs that may not break new ground, but are certainly worth checking out. — COURTNEY SUDBRINK