It’s difficult not to like Kelley Stoltz. The music he makes is firmly embedded in the tradition of The Beatles, as well as The Byrds and other west coast luminaries, but there is enough individuality within to show how accomplished he has become as a songwriter, still recording out of his bedroom.
Not much has changed on his outlook for To Dreamers, but then it didn’t really need to. Granted it’s a bit less playful and carefree than Circular Sounds was, but that’s no bad thing. Indeed, sometimes it finds him in a bit of strife, though you wouldn’t know it much from the largely positive music. Ventriloquist, an affirmative number, does nonetheless find him shot through with frustration. “Feelin’ like there’s no one at all who cares about me,” he complains. Love Let Me In Again finds him asking, “where you gonna be when the rain sets in?”, while Fire Escape, a jaunty up tempo number, finds him “sittin’ on your fire escape…we’re plotting our escape”.
Escapism and To Dreamers fit well, then, as a lot of Stoltz’s music is about an otherworldly state where everything is going to work out just fine. It might be a bit too idealistic for some people, but these are songs with melodies in abundance, and appealing melodic and lyrical quirks.
Just when you think he’s about to quote a famous show tune note for note, he throws in a change that takes us off down a side alley. Then he comes back, all pumped up, for one of the brassy faster numbers, ready to take you on a trip once again.
At times he might even remind you of a psyched up Bryan Ferry, and there’s a whiff of Let’s Stick Together about opener Rock & Roll With Me. This is the only style where Stoltz is less convincing, his entreaty “do you wanna lose control with me” somehow sounding a bit contrived. More representative is the seraphic August, where his voice, and indeed the music, loses focus like the hazy light, but finds “a hopeful sun is climbing higher as the day’s begun”.
That phrase alone is a good representation of Stoltz’s music, which provides an enjoyable yarn, some dreamy harmonies, and above all an overriding message of positivity. All three elements combine to make an album that adheres to the first principles of pop – and does his reputation as an accomplished songwriter no harm in the process.