South Africa isn’t renowned for providing us with too much music. In fact I couldn’t name you two that have broke these shores. Not even Wikipedia could shed much light. One South African act I can name, though, is Dear Reader – and now so can you.
Dear Reader is actually the Jo’Burg four piece’s new name. Originally, they were called Harris Tweed until the Scottish cloth company of the same name complained despite agreeing two years previous. A stolen laptop and one letter later, Dear Reader finally emerged. Anyway, petty name issues aside, Replace Why With Funny is their debut album, and you will fall in love with it.
Touching on sweet acoustica to rootsy folk to bluesy stomps, their influences make for good reading (Sufjan, Dodos, Regina Spektor, Shins to name just four). This impressive taste has bred an album that is impossible to tire of, helped by singer Cheri MacNeil’s distinct voice. It is made for records like Replace Why With Funny, softly torn and always perfectly placed.
‘The Same’ is absolutely beguiling, choral oohs and ba-da’s create an astonishing backdrop that will transfix you. Lyrically it explores her heritage, going deep into it, becoming more and more beautiful with every listen. There’s nothing but a choir, lone piano and drums but it becomes bigger than most bands can dream of. The choral parts continue into the dulcet ‘What We Wanted,’ the thick but soft textures the perfect backing to MacNeil.
‘Great White Bear,’ written after a friend told her if you look at a polar through infra red goggles, they disappear (kind of true according to Wikipedia, again), goes from a sparse trickle into a brilliantly grand crescendo. The shuffling folk of ‘Way Of The World’ and the darker ‘Dearheart’ offer a slightly different side to Dear Reader, while ‘Release Me’ haunts beautifully.
Make a Dear Reader sized space for Replace Why With Funny in your record collection.
Boy, do you need to.
Words: Jack Philips