Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #34 Matthew Dear - Asa Breed
Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#34 Matthew Dear - Asa Breed
Matthew Dear's Asa Breed is the rare flexible album that shifts with the listener's mood. I would call Dear's vocal style a warm, tender drone, which leaves all sorts of ins to the album's content – when you're down you can slip into a rhythm with the soothing monotony, and when you're up the bubbly hooks and throaty compassion keeps you on your high. Sure, any artist can claim diversity; not many can claim to have made a coherent, tightly-knit album which offers a singular listening experience one play through and an entirely different experience the next.
Dear has a real and apparent love for minimal techno, bubbly builds and soft synthesizers with rounded edges. Standout "Don and Sherri" features, what – two, three, five? – interlocking lines, each flashing shades of the other. It's like one of those ball pits you played in as a kid: small, colorful parts piled together make one unified whole. Dear avoids the obvious trap and doesn't let his lyrics sink into the mesh: it's all crisp, and the voice leads the way. "How could I let you forget me / if you don't even know me already? / My name doesn't change very often / but it's never been Don and Sherri." The rather cryptic declaration carries a simpler stab at the ho-hum (minor) identity crisis that pervades the album. (As he says on "Deserter," "I am really all that I've been looking for.") You can take these as downers, but there's a sort of playfulness there that forces a double- or triple-take at the intention. Those takes, like the hum in "Will Gravity Win Tonight?," just happen to be as slow, sweet and savory as molasses.
Dear has recorded under a barrage of aliases, but Asa Breed is where his softest, most detailed work landed. It's bleak, romantic, introspective, witty – but in turns, rather than all at once. Keep coming back to this one – you'll find something new every time you do.
Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.