Dear Readers - Idealistic Animals (Standard Edition) (CD)

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Since the release of their first album in 2006, Dear Reader has steadily matured into a unique and remarkable band, and one of South Africa’s finest exports. In 2009 their second record; ‘Replace Why with Funny’ was released in Europe through the widely esteemed indie label, City Slang. In it’s support the band toured extensively, winning the hearts of many up north, and introducing Europeans to something many didn’t know existed: South African Music that you wouldn’t find on the World Music shelf. Much has changed in the 2 years since the release of ‘Replace Why…’. Cherilyn MacNeil, the singer/songwriter behind the band, decided to move from her native Johannesburg to Berlin, (home of City Slang) and separated amicably from long time musical partner Darryl Torr. He chose to stay in South Africa to pursue his burgeoning career as a producer. (He has made records with Zebra & Giraffe, Cassette, Boo, Ashtray Electric and Wrestlerish, to name a few.) MacNeil said, "Darryl is the reason I decided to do music in the first place. He has been my mentor and is a dear friend, and I will miss him sorely. But I am excited to see where we'll both go as we each follow our own new paths." The first stop on MacNeil’s new path is Dear Reader’s follow-up album, ‘Idealistic Animals’. With a weighty and intense collection of songs, MacNeil belatedly examines and responds to the fallout that has followed the loss of her fundamentalist Christian belief system. In an unusually transparent fashion, she has expressed thorny melancholy reflections with an instantly recognisable blend of heart-on-the-sleeve honesty, fanciful poetry and winningly crafted song writing. ‘Idealistic Animals’ addresses grand themes in simple terms: the search for a structure that can fill the void left behind after the loss of fundamental beliefs, the hunt for meaning in life, the random nature of our existence, and the fact that, when push comes to shove, there’s little separating humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. “The record is quite fatalistic,” MacNeil admits, “my worst fear being that life is completely meaningless and I have absolutely no control or power.” Unless you listen closely, though, you might not recognise the sentiments that lie at the album’s heart. Dear Reader have always specialised in songs that sound as sweet as chocolate cheesecake, MacNeil’s remarkable voice – pure and unpretentious, passionate but gentle – a soothing presence that masks chunks of confusion, even bitterness, hidden within. Not for her, lines that are open to interpretation, normally a lyricist’s excuse for failing to express anything of real value or clarity. MacNeil’s feelings just tumble out, the pill instead sugared by a deceptively simple musical environment full of colourful distractions. The unique set of circumstances behind the album’s genesis – a top to bottom search for a new way to exist – lends the record an unusual air of cynicism and candour that has allowed her to name each song after an animal, as though the album is a 21st Century take on Aesop’s Fables. Not many people could pull off a song like ‘MOLE (Mole)’, which features two myopic animals colliding underground, or ‘WHALE (Boohoo)’, in which she imagines she’s a giant wave overwhelming New York. And few would delight in throwing a Shape-Note choir into the middle of the otherwise placid ‘CAMEL (Not Black Or White But Camel)’, something MacNeil did after she found herself fascinated by their unusual vocal style. But MacNeil’s style is singular, and all the more seductive for it. The album was initially demoed on piano and guitar before MacNeil began gathering musicians around her, from Calexico’s Martin Wenk to her sound engineer’s parents. Following his work on the debut album, the inestimable production skills of Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls, ex-Menomena) were then again called upon, with two weeks spent in Leipzig – “It was kind of like camping,” MacNeil recalls, “there was no real kitchen, no hot water, we were holed up with only one key so we basically didn’t leave!” – and then further sessions and mixing in Knopf’s native Portland, Oregon. The result is a record that somehow combines the classics and the contemporary, from the candour of Joni Mitchell and the sweet eccentricity of Kate Bush to the refined simplicity of Leslie Feist and the inventive vocal clarity of St Vincent. Given that MacNeil cheerfully admits that she rarely listens to music these days, this is an even greater achievement. But this has also contributed to the unusual qualities that the record displays: Dear Reader don’t chase prevailing trends or jump bandwagons. They just speak from the heart.

Copy Control
Number of Items
Media Type
Idealistic Animals (Standard Edition)
  1. [ Disc 01 Track 01 ] FOX (Take Your Chances)
  2. [ Disc 01 Track 02 ] Monkey (You Can Go Home)
  3. [ Disc 01 Track 03 ] Mole (Mole)
  4. [ Disc 01 Track 04 ] Earthworm (All Hail Our Ailing Mother)
  5. [ Disc 01 Track 05 ] Giraffe (What's Wrong With Us)
  6. [ Disc 01 Track 06 ] MAN (Idealistic Animals)
  7. [ Disc 01 Track 07 ] Camel (Not Black Or White But Camel)
  8. [ Disc 01 Track 08 ] Whale (Boohoo)
  9. [ Disc 01 Track 09 ] Bear (Young's Done In)
  10. [ Disc 01 Track 10 ] Elephant (Hearter)
  11. [ Disc 01 Track 11 ] Kite (Soon We'll Light Up)
Pop / Rock
Release Date
26 August 2011
South Africa
Audio Format
PCM Audio
Studio / Live
Video Disabled
  1. Dear Reader
Date Released
2011-08-01 00:00:00
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