Thunder Dreamer were my biggest discovery this year. I had never heard of the band until late May, when they released “Capture,” a new full-length that followed a debut EP in 2013 and an LP called Lonesome Morning in 2014.
Hailing from Evansville, Indiana, a small city of just under 120,000, Thunder Dreamer could be described as an emo singer coupled with a post-punk band, though that doesn’t do them justice. There’s also a dash of shoegaze and dream pop in their sound, and a love of tried and true 90s guitar tones. I mention their geographical roots only because, in a U.S. music scene that’s dominated by the coasts, it’s great to hear a band from the heartland make one of those sweeping, swelling albums for which the midwest is known.
In some ways, this is the band’s proper debut. Lead singer Steven Hamilton has said Capture represents the first truly collaborative Thunder Dreamer album, as Lonesome Morning was essentially songs he wrote and then handed to the band to fill out. Capture certainly sounds collaborative, with strong individual parts smartly laced together on every track. (Fun fact: Capture was mastered by TW Walsh, of Pedro the Lion, Starflyer 59, and Lo Tom fame.)
I listened to this record a lot in June while driving to Eaux Claires Festival. It proved to be the perfect soundtrack for scenic highways and rolling hills (we stayed off the freeways). The emotional tenor of the vocals is, I think, what first draws people into this album, but with repeated listens the musical arrangements also come to the fore.
The album’s lead single, which you can hear below, showcases a lot of the band’s strengths: the intertwined melodic leads that draw you in, the plaintive, searching vocals, and the cathartic choruses. The band also has a dedicated keyboard player, which is another thing I love. Guitars are great; guitars wrapped around keys are even better.
Thunder Dreamer does soft/loud dynamics quite well, and even though that’s a formula that bands have exploited since Nirvana, here it always sounds fresh and well-integrated into their overall sound. There’s a sighing sadness to this record, a gentle nostalgia, a remembrance of better times that I find quite affecting. It’s melancholic without being depressing, and therefore more akin to the ordinary ups and downs of a year.
Near the end of this record, there’s a ballad that just slays me every time. It’s called “Victoria.” The chord progression, the patient hi-hat shuffle, it’s just great from start to finish. With lines about faded relationships and “the son you never knew,” it packs an emotional punch and is a great way to close out an album. It’s always great when bands do both bangers and ballads well.
This is an album that is undoubtedly great, but that hints at even better things to come. Keep an eye on this band. I think their next release will make an even bigger splash. Now, how about a Canadian prairies tour? It’s the midwest of the north, after all.