An album can reveal a lot about itself with its first song, even its first lyric. That’s always in the back of my mind when listening to a full LP, but New York state’s Jesse Denaro opens Dear, Love with one of his most striking ,”Someone, someone save my life, because I’m dying over here.” There’s a desperation to it, and weariness that shades the rest of the album, but there’s also hope there. Maybe that someone, in some form or another, will come for Denaro.
Or, they’ll come for you, if that’s what you need. Throughout Dear, Love, Denaro writes about pain, struggle, and hard-earned triumph, but he writes in a very universal way; this could be something he experienced, but you can filter it into the context of your life and still get assurance out of it. Denaro’s lyrics are covered with “I”s, “you”s, and “we”s about what our hearts want, where we find ourselves, and where we’re going, and those sentiments are amplified by the album’s cathartic indie rock sound. Dear, Love is very much a feeling record.
This makes it a great album for if you’re feeling a little raw, but not quite despairing. Just as a listen, Dear, Love is deceptively light on its feet, alternating between strummed acoustic guitars and massive, overdriven power chords with a default speed kicked slightly above midtempo. The album’s rooted in early 00s indie rock with a touch of singer-songwriter emo thrown in for good measure in its loud-soft dynamics, fleet guitar lines, and big riffs. It isn’t hard to imagine songs like single “The Grand La Monz” or “Break Your Heart” starting as bedroom compositions, but Denaro puts enough flourish into them (see: the slide guitar in “Break Your Heart”) that they sound necessary as full band recordings.
In addition to fairly intricate songcraft, Denaro’s other sonic party trick is making dramatic stop-start bridges and outros sound natural and immensely satisfying. I don’t know how many shows he’s played, but there’s something in the instant chemistry of “Waiting War”‘s final rush, the title track’s extended, string-laden coda, or the honest to God freakout at the end of “People” that already sounds road tested, and has to sound even better live than on the record. It’s a promising sign of ambition and edge that gives Denaro one up over other artists on his level. Makes for some memorable songs, too, as those three rank as Dear, Love‘s best cuts.
Even for an album that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve, the one-two of “Young and Naive” and “Fear of God” is a clear emotional center. “Young and Naive” details grappling with temptation with both hands, and the overdriven, pulsing chorus (featuring Denaro’s raspiest vocals) is the only time that this record actually sounds dark. It marks the only time where things might not end up okay. On the flipside, “Fear of God” is Dear, Love‘s softest song, all violin and acoustic guitar. After skirting around God references for the last 30 minutes, Denaro lays it all bear in “Fear of God”, and no matter how you feel about faith or religion, the final chant of “You’re gonna be fine/You’re gonna be alright” is genuinely touching.
“Genuine” is the name of the game for Jesse Denaro, and he does it well. At its worst, the material glides by a bit too easily–“Speed of Light” and “Break Your Heart” feel a bit flat, and “Bones” doesn’t do enough with four and a half minutes–but its highlights (the title track, “Waiting War”, and “The Grand La Monz”) would fit comfortably on any indie rock playlist, and the album proper is definitely worth checking out. It’s an honest record, and more importantly, better for it.