Album Review: Dean Wareham – Emancipated Hearts




Dean Wareham, frontman of former space-rockers Galaxie 500 and the now-defunct Luna, has spent over two decades building and dismantling his concept of what love means.

Wareham’s musical endeavors today still plumb through personal realizations about his own shortcomings, loneliness, and the scared-shitless feeling of letting your guard down in exchange for intimacy. Despite the triumphant title of Wareham’s latest solo EP, Emancipated Hearts, a prevailing sense of defeat is tough to shake. Here we see the man post-fallout, head buried in his hands.

Amidst the defeat, Wareham is still committed to describing the intricacy of his surroundings with a wide-eyed wonder. “How tall you’ve grown,” he marvels on opener “Love is Colder Than Death”, which despite its plucky string section, bears the weariness of a jukebox country ballad playing long after the bar has closed, establishing an autumnal milieu from the beginning. Wareham’s breathy vocals have always resonated while turning a phrase over and over, eventually tumbling over into spidery guitar lines. Title track “Emancipated Hearts” employs the same sonic formula, the gorgeous, echoed vocals lapping over the listener.

Galaxie 500’s quiet magnitude in the late ’80s hinged on careful subtleties amidst a pronounced melancholia. Wareham’s solo work plays to the very same strengths. The burning “The Deadliest Day Since The War Began” could easily be an On Fire B-side, repeating the same slow, recursive chord movements. “The Ticking Is the Bomb” unfurls with eerily similar chord progressions as Galaxie’s “Plastic Bird”.

Wareham may be revisiting his past, but the story gets a bit more embellishment on Emancipated Hearts. “Bomb” is layered with more sonic depth than the stark guitar that became central to Galaxie 500, exploring echoes and placing piano at the forefront instead of staying in his guitar comfort zone. But even as he wades in new territories of the same defeat, Wareham’s greater sonic tendencies don’t stray too far from his habits. At this point in life and in love, perhaps his freedom of heart comes from there being nothing to lose.

Essential Tracks: “Emancipated Hearts”, “The Deadliest Day Since the Invasion Began”, and “The Ticking is the Bomb”