By Chris Greene
Adventures in Real Time is 18-year-old Illinois native Dylan Gardner’s debut studio album. Released by Warner Bros Records on Jan. 6, the album is gaining media attention. At press time, the opening track, “Let’s Get Started,” has nearly three million plays on Spotify.
All songs on the album are written by Gardner. According to Gardner’s website, the album showcases the young songwriter’s “brisk hooks, high-spirited melodies, and a musical eclecticism that reflects his deep love for his pop-rock predecessors, including The Beatles, Ben Folds and Vampire Weekend.”
While it’s clear from the album’s opening tracks that Gardner can produce catchy hooks, I’m not quite sure where eclecticism comes into play. In fact, my greatest frustration with the record is that almost all the tracks sound the same. Each song features a typical pop song structure. Even the way the album is mixed becomes monotonous by the third track. Every chorus seems to feature multi-tracked vocals, layered drums and hand clapping.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these elements appearing in a given song, but before the album is halfway through, I found myself searching for a change of pace. The best form of variation I got was the sixth track, titled “The Actor.” Unlike other tracks on the album, “The Actor” provided a bit more intimacy, as it mostly focuses on Gardner and his guitar. The track also features one of Gardner’s more endearing melodies. Another track that caught my attention was “Sing For The Stars,” which doesn’t suffer from overproduction and features the curious case of having verses that are even more catchy than the chorus.
As advertised, the album reflects Gardner’s love for The Beatles, more so lyrically than musically. Though Gardner gives a nod to John Lennon in the album’s opening lyrics by singing “I’ll be John and you be Yoko …”, his songwriting style is more similar to McCartney, at least in terms of subject matter. Indeed, every track on the album falls under what Lennon would classify as “silly love songs.” There’s nothing wrong with that, as McCartney would assure us with his 1976 smash hit, but I still wish the album had a bit more lyrical depth. Most of Gardner’s lyrics deal with teenaged trifles, as opposed to offering any unique insights.
The artist Gardner reminds me of most is former Nickelodeon TV star Drake Bell. Though Bell’s musical preferences date back to the 1950s, more so than the 1960s, his voice and style is similar to Gardner’s. Both write their own music and produce rock-pop records. Fans of Bell will likely also enjoy Gardner’s debut.
As for me, I can’t say this album is one of my favorites. Each song is catchy and could independently be hits, but the album as a whole lacks depth and development. Gardner, however, is talented, and a bit more variety could lead to stellar albums in the future.
Overall rating: 2.5/5 Stars