Elijah Montez, the songwriter and front-man of Daydream Review, is preoccupied with time. Time drives the thematic framework of the group’s debut album, Leisure. An unexpected surplus of time gave way to a newfound sonic depth when recording. And time urges us to get right to the point during our brief Zoom interview, where Montez is a bit worried about getting back to his day job as an architect.
The Chicago-based Daydream Review will release their debut album Leisure on April 7, and it could not have existed without an influx of time. While he’s hesitant to call Leisure a “pandemic album,” the sudden presence of—you guessed it—leisure—during 2020’s quarantine and work-from-home flexibility, offered more opportunities for Montez to record and rerecord.
The result is a collage of wide, rich, and detailed psychedelic noodling. Montez reflects, “I remember when I got my first COVID vaccine. I was still trying to record, even though it hit me hard. And I was still just trying to work through it. And I recorded the same part like 300 times just because I had the time and I had the ability to be like, Ah, I’m recovering from the COVID vaccine. Leave me alone.”
Time gave way to more complex arrangements, and, in pursuit of this dense psych-pop sound, Montez disregarded the necessity to make these songs performance-ready. “Because I began writing in a way that was like, “Oh well, I don’t have to perform these for years,” I started being much more exploratory and experimental with the arrangements that I did, layering things up to the 10th degree.” Each song certainly sounds the part, like the lead single “Have You Found What You’re Looking For?” or the six-minute sprawling “Sunchaser,” which is shrouded in dusty textures and echo.
This feeling permeates Leisure: blurry but lucid, foggy but focused. Spiraling in smoke-machine-haze, but precise in its lyrical poignancy. Comparisons to early Tame Impala and Pond feel a bit too obvious, at least sonically, but they wouldn’t be wrong.
What sets Daydream Review apart from the legions of up-and-coming psych-pop made-in-the-bedroom artists is Montez’s thematic focus. Leisure is an unapologetic concept album that examines our relationship to our jobs. For something that dominates such an overwhelming majority of our lives, our relationship to work is not a topic often covered in indie music, let alone in psychedelic rock epics. It’s the combination of escapist, ethereal music with the most practical, realist subject imaginable that makes Leisure stand out.
Montez describes the root of the idea: “Because one thing that I noticed is still being talked about very vocally and I think it should be continued to be talked about is the changing relationship that we have with our jobs and work and how that affects our leisure time…Everyone has this weird tenuous grasp on what can be considered leisure time. And as a leftist, the fact that this is all driven by capital and the need for production exacerbated those feelings and heightened them. And I was like, I would like to write about that.”
The album isn’t some overt on-the-nose takedown of capitalism though. “There are some songs that are almost hypothetical. They’re… imagining how things could be better and getting lost in what that could be and how it might feel. So, there’s kind of a temporal aspect to it. A lot of it is focused on the present issues that you have in relationship to work.”
Ultimately, Leisure isn’t trying to make up your mind. Much like extra time created a space for Montez to devote to creating this record, the album opens up a space for you to reflect on how work and leisure make up your life. “You can take it however you want. I don’t ever want to be presumptuous about what someone may get from it. And if they listen to these songs and they think that they’re better for wallowing, I think that’s fine. And if someone listens to these songs and they’re really into it from a optimistic point of view, that’s perfectly fine as well.”
Leisure by Daydream Review is out April 7.
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