Wednesday, June 7, 2023

In Dialogue: “Change” (2022) CD Review

In Dialogue is the project of the duo of Laura Hauser and Dominik Christmann, who go by Laura M and Dominic professionally. This songwriting team is from southern Germany. They released their debut full-length album, Change, last autumn, featuring all original material. Laura M is on lead vocals, guitar and bass, and Dominic plays guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn and flute. Joining them are Gunter Hauser on piano, bass and drums; Josua Niklas on saxophone; Maria Hauser on violin; Paul Douglas on trombone and backing vocals; and Derek Crehan on guitar.

The album addresses the theme of change, with tracks as chapters examining different facets of that larger theme, and so there is an introduction, an instrumental piece titled simply “Intro.” It hints at some darker corners, some uncertainty, perhaps some melancholy, while also possessing a beauty. That is followed by “Whole.” As with “Intro,” the guitar starts this one. I love how the first line of the song, and thus the album, begins, “Don’t know where to start.” Here are the opening lines: “Don’t know where to start explaining/Who you are to me/But you don’t need explaining/For anything.” This is a sweet song, a love song, a song about feeling whole in someone’s arms, which is the best feeling in the world. But is there still a desire to explain the feeling? For she sings, “And I can’t explain happiness.” Of course there is a need to communicate what we feel. And isn’t that what music is about? There is a sort of jazzy vibe to sections of this song, which I like.

The album’s title track, “Change,” features some beautiful work on violin. “Can you tell what a life is worth?” Laura asks at the beginning of this one. “So if you please, tell me now/Because I want to know what this is all about.” She seems to speak for all of us when singing those lines. In addition to the strings, this track features some really nice work on piano, and a moving, passionate vocal performance. “And I do not see any reason for this pain/We need to change.” This is a song that Laura wrote as part of the Europe Spirit Songwriting project, and it is certainly an outstanding track. That’s followed by “Peace Of Mind.” “All that I want is peace of mind,” she tells us at the beginning of this one. She then reveals, “And all that we do is fuss all the time.” The song is about a troubled relationship. And as it kicks in, the song takes on a good folk-pop vibe (sort of in the same realm as, say, Edie Brickell And The New Bohemians). I particularly like the line, “You bring me joy, you bring me anger.” Here the change is perhaps not for the better, as she sings, “We don’t talk anymore/Do you think that we should?” Communication is obviously an important theme for this duo, as the band name they’ve chosen attests to.

In “Cry,” Laura sings, “Sometimes I just like to let it go/What’s really going on below/I’m too weak to cry.” There is something beautiful about this song, particularly in the way she delivers that title line. And of course the line “What’s really going on below” reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  I also love these lines, just before the end: “If you ask me how I am, I’m okay/I’m fine/I’ll be fine.” What I like is that change, how her initial response is not quite true, not quite accurate, and she amends it with a promise that is more to herself than to the person to whom she’s speaking, “I’ll be fine.” Interestingly, in the next song, “Thank You,” she sings, “So let’s have a drink, have a talk, have a laugh/And feel just fine.” This is a song of friendship, of connection, and it features some pretty work on horn, an element that really adds another level to the song’s emotional impact, and to its warmth.

“You Are There” is about being able to come home, knowing there is someone you can rely on. “When I need it, I can call for advice/Come home for a smile/And you’re there, and you’re there.” This one had me in tears. It’s a beautiful song, and in the second half it features violin. I love that section toward the end, where the vocals take on an ethereal quality, and the saxophone comes in. The horns play a significant role in “Happy Song” too, a song with a gentle vibe. And I know my girlfriend is going to appreciate its opening lines: “It’s those little things in life/Like coffee in the morning.” Just try to deny her that little thing. “My friends tell me that I should write, I should write/A happy song, and I know they’re right.” Ah, and so is this that happy song they’ve encouraged? It begins to feel more cheerful when she repeats those lines in the second half. The horns are also encouraging. That is followed by “People,” in which Laura sings, “Life is connection.” There is something of a soothing aspect to this track.

There is a stronger, more urgent energy to “Seek And Hide” once the song kicks in. It’s an interesting character sketch, with a different vocal approach that is compelling. “She’s been walking down this road/Like a million times before/She’s ready for that call/That’s asking her to walk through that door.” This track features a good guitar lead in the second half, and is another of the disc’s highlights. Then “All Wrong”: opens with these lines: “I get up every morning/Leave the house with joy.” That last word comes as a surprise, because it is so at odds with the somber tone, and so it works to draw us in. “I do what I love/But somehow that’s all wrong/How am I supposed to go on/When they hate everything I love?/They don’t see me for the person I am.” This is a song for our times, isn’t it? It is so depressing how humanity does not seem capable of progress, at least not the sort of progress that actually counts, that means something. This track features some really nice guitar work, and it ends with a positive line, “And I will show them who I’ve become.”

“Free” has a more cheerful energy at the start, with bright bursts from the horns. Then surprisingly they take things down several notches as Laura delivers the first lines. But it then builds again from there, and has a catchy element, and features and more great stuff from the brass section. “We are free/We believe/Life is better like this,” Laura sings here. She then reaches out with these lines, “Tell me true, am I wrong/Or do we share a similar bliss?” Toward the end, there is a section where she repeats “Let’s not forget who we are,” which I love. But what I especially appreciate is the joy and energy of this song. That’s followed by “Love Is Stronger.” I dig the percussion, which sets a certain tone at the beginning, along with the horn. And check out that work on flute. “Sometimes I am anxious/Hide away, close the door.” In these days of mass shootings, I think all sensible and sane people in this country can appreciate (and relate to) these lines: “Sometimes I feel wary/And afraid of the crowd/All the world seems so frightening/Everything’s far too loud.” Yet this song contains optimism, hope, and a reminder that, as the title says, “Love is stronger.” We do need that reminder. The album then concludes with “Outro,” which surprisingly is not an instrumental track, as “Intro” is. Here Laura sings, “I’m gonna try not to miss you/I’m gonna pretend I don’t mind/But when you go/Still want to know.” This one has a more somber tone on piano.

CD Track List

  1. Intro
  2. Whole
  3. Change
  4. Peace Of Mind
  5. Cry
  6. Thank You
  7. You Are There
  8. Happy Song
  9. People
  10. Seek And Hide
  11. All Wrong
  12. Free
  13. Love Is Stronger
  14. Outro

Change was released on November 7, 2022 on DH Records.

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