ALBUM REVIEW: WARREN DUNES — “GET WELL SOON”

Warren Dunes Get Well Soon Album Art

We’ve all had that moment: shuffling through a bunch of new music and clicking through a bunch of stylistic clones.  Then something catches your attention, so different that it freezes your finger hovering above the skip button. Before you know it, you’re three tracks into an album and still listening.  Be prepared—Get Well Soon, the debut LP by the Seattle trio Warren Dunes will make you forget that you even have that skip button.

After a quick listen, we can all agree that Warren Dunes has a beachy, indie rock vibe.  However, it’s more than that.  Throughout Get Well Soon, you’re going to hear hints of funk, psychedelia, Tropicalia, melodic chanting, and just a touch of hip hop.  The group describes itself as a “family band,” and is made up of frontwoman and keyboardist Julia Massey, her husband and guitarist, Jared Cortese, and Jared’s brother, Dominic, on drums.  Perhaps it’s this close-knit comradery that gives Warren Dunes the comfort to push creative boundaries and pursue the distinctive sound on this art rock album.

Get Well Soon is indeed a fitting name for the record.  Even when dealing with heavier subjects, there is an upbeat, sunny vibe that lifts the spirits. Several tracks feature vocal sounds, repeated phrases, or abbreviated choruses, including album opener, “Talkin About That Burden,” “Count on Me,” and the closing track, “Just Another Band From Warren Dunes.” Highlighting the use of minimal lyrics, Massey’s crystalline melodic chanting on “Count on Me” is superb.  While overall diverse, these three tracks share a certain funkiness and rhythm that make them dance-ready indie rock jams that you know are going to feel even better when we get to safely hear them with friends at a concert or, even better, festival.

Just because Get Well Soon feels light, maybe even joyous, doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of important messages. “Quit Takin A Side” and “Be Good” are clearly influenced by political and societal issues, but present questions that inspire introspection—a discussion rather than a lecture. “Be Good” also features a standout, jazzy, electric guitar solo.  The weightiest track on the album, “Tether,” also has a clear inspiration in the events of the last year.  The song touches on “the deep fear and confusion anyone sitting in a hospital bed might experience when they are in their last moments.”  It’s accompanied by a fittingly ominous guitar hum and a dark, heavy drumbeat.  However, it’s also the shortest song on the album, and is immediately followed by the high-energy, “Cool Mom,” a collaboration with Tacoma rapper Chris Blount, which feels like the band is reminding us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The seamless blend of Blount’s flow with the band’s noisy rock riffs is an unexpected twist on an album already full of the unexpected.

One of the greatest afflictions of the record industry is the belief that the formula for success is hear song, copy song, slightly tweak song, and repeat.  Warren Dunes dares to be different and, in the process, hooks us with their creative vision.  Get Well Soon is as a breath of creative fresh air for music lovers who feel trapped in the algorithm fueled mire of mass-marketed music.

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