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If the Juno soundtrack got the better of your sentimental side back in 2007, Heather Gruber’s sunny acoustic pop tunes are bound to resonate. Dance into the Desert is a collection of unpretentious and colourful songs designed to be as catchy and sweet as humanly possible. Undoubtedly way too sugary for some, but acoustic pop converts will be delighted with this offering – Gruber grapples with classic three chord pop songs, theatrical ballads, and more with melodic gusto and well-anchored songwriting sensibilities.
From start to finish, the album sounds very polished and clean. There’s plenty of the classic jangly, springy finger-style to be found: ‘Hiding from the Rain’ and ‘Perfect Day’ being prime examples. All a testament to the solid production job in one sense, but also Gruber and her band’s playing and writing which are bright, endearing, and expressive.
Lyrically, music like this tends to revolve uniformly around sentimentality, romance, and similar concepts. As such, the words are more functional rather than memorable; sourced from a well-worn dictionary. Arguably an essential part of the experience though – it maintains the innocent and childish simplicity that’s core to its appeal. Nonetheless, Gruber does manage to impress some personality on otherwise bland lyrics by emphasising a conversational tone in lines and melodies – such as on ‘Ready or Not’ – which adds to the relatability and down-to-earth nature of her work.
Unsurprisingly, the Disney level of sickly sweetness can be wearing. There are 14 tracks on Dance into the Desert and songs can feel undistinguished when experienced in a single sitting. Parts of the album feel like it’s rolling from track to track, with words about love over yet another simple chord progression. A matter of taste, admittedly; Gruber can’t be grossly faulted for her songwriting or performance in this style, and in spite of the largely unoriginal nature of the album, catchy pop addicts will love her either way.
Dance into the Desert is out on Nov 30th