MICHELLE – ‘After Dinner We Talk Dreams’ review: a lively dose of self-help

The band's second album captures the tenderness and joy at play with the knotty tensions of growing up in New York City

They say that some of the most important things in life you do around a dinner table. It’s where you eat, date, share stories, and make both memories and important decisions. And for six-piece MICHELLE – a collective of multi-talented vocalists, songwriters and producers barely out of their teens – it’s where great change began in late 2018, as they mapped out the vibrant and accomplished ‘After Dinner We Talk Dreams’ over laughter and lovingly-made meals.

Following 2018’s self-released ’Heatwave’, the second album from the Brooklyn-based group – comprising Sofia D’Angelo, Julian Kaufman, Charlie Kilgore, Layla Ku, Emma Lee and Jamee Lockard – came to life across three weeks spent at producer Kaufman’s house, where they conceived the project to work in order to through their problems together. Much like its predecessor, the record sees each member narrate not only their own vulnerability, but that of their bandmates, encouraging survival and self-improvement over group harmonies and striking pop choruses. Their liberation is individual and universal at once.

Many of these songs navigate the pleasures and perils of New York living, softening heavy emotional blows with melodic confection, and absorbing elements of R&B, pop and soul to soothe their ache. On ‘No Signal’, the gang contemplate how isolation can bring clarity in those moments when you need to find a way out of your head – and the big city around you. I’ve gotta unwind / Take my space / I don’t need this so fast-paced”, Lee sings over fluttering, meditative keys. The gently funky ‘Talking To Myself’, meanwhile, tackles distance created by expecting the worst to happen, and ‘Expiration Date’ takes the emotional burden further by attempting to find strength in loss: “It’ll hurt for a while / But I’m still breathing.”

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‘Syncopate’ is a crash course in what makes MICHELLE’s confidently understated music so addictive: as they explore the way new partners slowly reveal themselves to each other, D’Angelo and Ku sing giddily as if they’re punch-drunk on desire. It’s confident, steamy, and cheeky like a Carly Rae Jepsen hit. The group’s choruses are always in motion, too, spinning between heavy feelings of love and lust on ‘End Of The World’.

But the most striking relationships depicted on the album are platonic ones within the band. Everything in their world now always comes back to hope, where in the past, their feelings about the future were usually confusion and doubt. One line on heart-swelling closer ‘My Friends’ implies that’s changed now: “Too much history cause we have been through everything”. It’s a potent moment that proves on ‘After Dinner We Talk Dreams’, it’s clear that the members of MICHELLE are moving forwards together in search of something new, but are grateful to be in no rush to find it.

Details

Michelle After Dinner We Talk Dreams

  • Release date: March 4
  • Record label: Canvasback/Transgressive
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