From the opening arpeggios of “Semester” all the way through to the gentle fadeout of “Heaven Moves,” Dear Boy consistently serves up all the dreamiest, jangliest pop you could ask for. This is one of those albums that makes you feel like you’re the protagonist of a coming-of-age movie. There’s an odd duality to The Strawberry EP – the instrumental hooks are absolutely infectious and deserve to be blasted out of car windows at night or hold down arena stages. However, Ben Grey’s breathy, post-punk-esque vocals give this album a level of emotional intimacy that makes listening to it feel like a private affair. The lyrics are an outpouring of frustration at mixed messages and ambiguous relationships, and convey an intense desire for truly-madly-deeply-type love all wrapped up in anxiety about coming on too strong. Hopeless romantics unite.
The opening track, “Semester,” could very well be a lost Beach Fossils track. The combined forces of jangly guitars and driving, strumming basslines paint a pretty good picture for the general feel of the album. Upbeat, dancier tracks like “Limelight” still keep the same level of emotion as the raw, acoustic “Something Good.” The Strawberry reaches its climax in the chorus of “Anything At All,” when Grey practically shouts his frustration at a girl who wants to keep it ~casual~: “Please…. / I want it all to mean something / Anything at all.”
The bonus track, “Heaven Moves,” is honestly the standout. If the album is a teenage movie soundtrack, this track’s the one that plays during the credits. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a harpsichord. The song slowly builds from stripped back vocals to saccharine harmonization into floaty, dreamy instrumental passages and borderline critical levels of jangly guitars. The production on this album gets a chef’s kiss from me. Dear Boy leaves you wanting more from this album in the best way. I started it over again as soon as it finished.