Photo Credit: Ryan Rundle
On stage, Cannons lead singer Michelle Joy is an enigmatic presence – sporting glam-rock looks and exuding a sense of effortless cool. On her band’s third album – and first since their breakthrough LP Shadows (which boasted the band’s first AAA chart-topper) – Joy seeks to transplant this effortless cool into her band’s music. Appropriately then, Cannon’s third album Fever Dream sounds slick and polished without ever sounding labored over. Somewhat disappointingly, however, Joy’s magnetism rarely translates into the music – where she often sounds monotone and disengaged.
Fever Dream draws on an admirably vast array of influences – dream-pop innovators like Mazzy Star and Beach House, as are punk-poppers like Maggie Lindemann and modern-day, acclaimed indie-pop stars like Hatchie and Japanese Breakfast. Of course, the risk of trying to be so many things at once is ultimately failing to achieve any of them with any real success. Sure enough, Fever Dream – while reliably competent – lacks both the transcendence of Mazzy Star and Beach House and the euphoric highs of Japanese Breakfast and Hatchie.
Fever Dream is a concept album of sorts – examining all the various knotty emotions associated with a break-up. But its inquiry into these feelings is not deep enough, and its songwriting is not sharp enough to sell its vision. Opener “Come Alive” fails to transcend cliches about taking the longest road, while “Hurricane” offers a bold mission statement (“I can bring the thunder and the rain // Everything around me // Everything will rearrange”) but can’t find an equally ambitious sound to match its lyrics. “Ruthless”, meanwhile, makes the same mistake countless Olivia Rodrigo wannabes have made over the last year – substituting the sort of detail-oriented affecting song-writing Olivia excels at in favor of the odd, unexpected snarled “F*ck you” retort.
Fever Dream is at its best when Joy and the band turn their perspective inwards and reflect. The exploration on “Only You” of depression is a little crude (“Sometimes, I feel amazing // But never too often”) but feels authentic in a way a lot of the rest of the album doesn’t. Closer “Lightning”, meanwhile, benefits from its sincerity (“‘Cause you are the only thing I’ve ever gotten right”). The best song here, however, is “Goodbye.” Alone at the microphone, Joy excavates the dying moments of a failed relationship: “The sun is low, the tide is high // Under the red moon sky // That’s when you said goodbye.” As she sings these lines she sounds resigned and beaten and the intensity of her longing forces the rest of the world to become little more than background static – it’s a tantalizing glimpse at a great songwriting talent that doesn’t always come to the forefront across Fever Dream’s 40 minutes.