Matthew Dear’s sixth album and long-awaited comeback under his eponymous alias is called Bunny, about which he says: “Bunnies are cute. Bunnies are weird. They’re soft. They’re sexy. They’re lucky. They wildly procreate. They trick hunters, but get tricked by turtles. They lead you down holes.” This eccentric spirit follows him on to this release, where whimsical lyrics complement the synth-pop production, and it gives the album a sense of character that carries it through.
Opener Bunny’s Dream impresses with its gentle guitar notes and lush backdrop, as well as its repeated vocal hook (“You and I, in this world of you”). Some hi-hats shimmy along, but there is relatively little to disturb the slumber, and it makes for an enthralling opener as the track dissolves into cut-up samples and echo effects. Calling then displays the more quirky side of the songwriting, and also starts off with some of the most conventional production on the record before it becomes overpowered by distortion and snarling synth leads. However, a strong one-two punch is then undermined by the relatively forgettable and monotone Can You Rush Them, which is unfortunate.
The record is a little overlong, and this manifests itself in some tracks that are out-and-out missteps and others that lose their way. Kiss Me Forever, which comes near the end of the album, has some promising elements – syncopated drums, a hint of psychedelia – that never coalesce into anything meaningful, but for every moment like that there are highlights like the intriguingly minimalistic Echo. A warm bassline and whirling space echo are all that adorn the track, letting the kooky vocals shine through, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome either.
The collaborations with Tegan and Sara, Horses and Bad Ones, are cute and effective, the former being a low-key ode to an unpredictable relationship (“And I know one day, baby, I’ll find you gone / but today I’m gonna love you like that day will never come”) with a glitchy middle section and impeccable synth work, the latter a more cheeky tune featuring a steady beat and background wobbles. Both tracks are improved for the female voices, which are more traditionally pleasant than Dear’s bassy theatrics, and they are good examples of the album’s poppier side, with memorable hooks as well as engaging subject matter.
What You Don’t Know is another less essential track, its muted synths and mumbly lyrics failing to leave an impression, its mid-tempo beat plodding along superfluously. The best section of the record comes later, with the noisy instrumental Duke Of Dens followed by Electricity. Heavy bass and a popping percussion section dominates the former, and the latter is an infectiously wonky house track with grooving bass. It also has some of the best songwriting on the album, as his idiosyncratic delivery rubs up against the 4×4 beat perfectly, and it shows an interesting synthesis of Dear’s talents.
The record ends with Before I Go, which is powered by some indecipherable vocal snippets and a pervading sense of melancholy. There follows a hidden track in which one of his daughters sings “The Dancing Love Song”, a sweet ending to an album that feels personal despite its tongue-in-cheek nature.
Bunny is a worthwhile return for Matthew Dear, showcasing the production chops that have made him a familiar name for 15 years now. It sags in places, but this isn’t such a crime when the album also contains highlights like Electricity, Horses, Modafinil Blues and Bunny’s Dream, which are highly recommended for any electronic music fan.