Dream Boat's second album, The Rose Explodes, is lush and pretty; for Page Campbell, Dan Donahue and their collaborators, no world exists outside their floating paradise of folky harmonies, ponderous thumps and shimmery synths. Everything is bright, but the more nuanced tracks shine with the strangest colors, like “Closest” and its butterfly oscillations, or “The Softest Touch,” with its inky depths.
With all the rich detail in the arrangements, the utterly flat vocals are frustrating. They're even more so when one realizes that the lyrics offer even less. As the music advances with cinematic glory to the staggering, suspended pulse of “Way Gone,” Campbell remains angelic and faceless, spouting generic elegies of universal love and loss (“I wait for your call to save me”; “You make me want to live forever”).
The Rose Explodes begs to be praised for defying genre—just listen to the billowy “Never Die,” where gentle Americana strumming, swoony viola blossoms and noble horn fanfares smack together into one blockbuster love scene. It's impressive, but as a whole, the album comes off as a towering obelisk, all slick surfaces and no footholds.