Yates Dew
Exhale Through Your Feet

When I first popped in songwriter Yates Dew’s new album, Exhale Through Your Feet, I was put off by the first track “Put it Off.” The repetitive chorus of “Every day begins with a dream” bugged me. And, worse yet, he had the gall to sing, “I never liked the Rolling Stones.” But I gave him a second chance. And I’m glad I did.

Listening a little more closely to the lyrics on “Put it Off” reveals a deeper meaning. After the blasphemous Rolling Stones insult, he finishes the verse, “Don’t much like cigarettes/But I haven’t smoked my last one yet/I’ll put it off again.” The rest of the lyrics are reflective and insightful, and it’s obvious there was a reason he picked this song as the opener for his first album in six years. Maybe finally putting it out after a long hiatus was his response to that creeping feeling of putting it off that he describes so well. The more I listened, the catchier the songs were. I even found myself singing along on the third listen.

The rest of Exhale Through Your Feet is in a similar vein, with alternating sad-bastard ballads and brainy power-pop. Dew has been working on this album for so long that he’s clearly thought through the arrangements and instrumentation very carefully.

He plays most of the instruments, many of which were added months or even years apart, either at a home studio or with producer Patrick Boyd at Sioux Sioux Studio in Charlotte. It’s easy to see why the final product is so introspective and reflective.

While all that is great, the two strongest songs, “I Wanted it Too” and “Hartwell,” have a driving rhythm or an overriding melody to pick them up off the floor. While not exactly happy, “I Wanted it Too” manages to parse through a past relationship without losing sight of its clean, somehow summery beat.

Despite Dew’s occasionally strained voice, it’s a very easy song to listen to, immediately making me think of rolling a car window down or enjoying a cocktail in a beautiful spot — both moments where smiles spontaneously creep up.

“Hartwell” has a country rhythm with a beautiful pedal steel behind it, and its fast-paced jauntiness brings back that roll-down-the-window good feeling that makes you want to tap your foot. Another ballad, “Test of Loneliness,” builds up strong from a soft start.

There are a few missteps, most notably “Everyone Can Sing,” which sounds too much like a nursery rhyme. And at nine tracks and barely 30 minutes, it’s a little light for a six-year effort. But overall, it’s a solid collection of pop songwriting. Unlike a lot of music today, the songs actually mean something. (yatesdew.com)

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