Dean Lewis – A Place We Knew

Dean Lewis - A Place We KnewThe rise of Dean Lewis is strikingly similar to that of fellow Australian Vance Joy, which wouldn’t really be noteworthy if the similarities ended there.

Both are folk-pop singer/songwriters who earned relatively quick success at home with an EP before launching themselves in America with a single that hit gold on Adult Alternative airwaves, followed by an album that continued to dish out hit after hit on their native soil.

While Be Alright, the song that gave Lewis his break in North America, was a reasonably-sized hit, it didn’t catch on the way Joy’s Riptide did. Lewis’ is lyrically stronger, but his vocals aren’t as distinctive as Joy’s and Riptide benefitted by inserting itself into pop culture conversations (aided by the Michelle Pfeiffer line).

Dean Lewis’ debut full-length album A Place We Knew is textbook white guy sings guitar pop in 2019. He writes about the challenges of relationships from his own experiences, from doomed relationships to breakups to trying to get over said breakups. It’s inoffensive, familiar, and relatable.

In particular, main single Be Alright presents a more modern take on breakups that likely sounds familiar to many. In it, he sings about re-reading old text messages even though he knows it will hurt him. The mere mention of modern technology in music has yet to be truly romanticized the way letters and phone calls have been, but somehow this song does it.

In 7 Minutes, he has instant regret now that his relationship is over as he sits in a taxi driving past places that remind him of her. It’s the figurative life flashing before eyes moment that comes with the new perspective following a breakup.

From there, the album jumps between the different stages of relationships using melodic guitar pop that range from uptempo to the occasional yearning ballad.

Referred to sometimes as Australia’s Ed Sheeran, Lewis sings over a guitar with music that instead more closely recalls Mumford & Sons‘ brand of folk rock, Passenger‘s storytelling, or Of Monsters & Men‘s layered style of instrumentation. Adding those to the Vance Joy comparisons and there’s little space left for him to carve out his own style.

Dean Lewis writes with honesty and from experience, but those are not enough to differentiate this from the dozens of other breakup records that come out each year. There’s little to grab onto that would make it feel truly personal for the listener and it winds up feeling generic.

Two Stars

Check Out: Be Alright, Hold Of Me, Chemicals

1. Hold Of Me
2. 7 Minutes
3. A Place We Knew
4. Stay Awake
5. Waves
6. Be Alright
7. Chemicals
8. Straight Back Down
9. Time To Go
10. Don’t Hold Me
11. For The Last Time
12. Half A Man

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