After Dinner We Talk Dreams by Michelle album review by Mimi Kenny for Northern Transmissions

Canvasback Music/Transgressive

6.8

MICHELLE

AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS

If you’re planning on seeing Mitski on her upcoming North American tour, make sure you don’t miss the opener. Six-piece NYC collective MICHELLE functions as a genuine ensemble, with four members sharing vocal duties and two handling production to create sultry pop suited for the bedroom, the coffee shop, or the club. While their second album, AFTER DINNER WE CAN TALK DREAMS, is dragged down by some tracklisting overload as well as some underdeveloped ideas, it still points to MICHELLE as being a promising group with plenty of potential and solid chemistry.

DREAMS isn’t exactly an original album, but what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in enthusiasm, at least most of the time. MICHELLE sound like they’re going for both 90s/2000s R&B and the indie pop that tries to approximate it. Songs are catchy, breezy, and occasionally a little weird. Opener “MESS U MADE” briefly crescendos into a screech of what sounds like “I WAS THE BITCH” before dipping back into its tasteful vocal harmonies and swaying rhythms. The lightly tropical “TALKING TO MYSELF” ends with some babbling and growling ad-libs. These aren’t detours as much as quick bursts of flavor to a satisfying, if familiar, meal. The looser MICHELLE get, the better they sound. The muted disco of “POSE” is enlivened by gorgeous harmonies, a swooning chorus, and volleying vocal volume in the outro. Auto-Tune pops in for a few cameos on “SYNCOPATE” and “END OF THE WORLD,” which squeeze some sex positivity into the album’s dominating (if vague) heartbreak theme, carried over from their debut, 2018’s HEATWAVE. A quick, satisfied sigh during “SYNCOPATE” leaves far more of an impression than the stock drum machine beats backing in and many other tracks here.

Nothing here stands out as an obvious dud, with the closest exception being “LAYLA IN THE ROCKET,” which comes across as a flat take on Caroline Polachek’s punchy synth-pop. But many of these 14 tracks are agreeable without being exceptional, and their quality says moreabout MICHELLE’s taste than it does about their actual strengths as songwriters. You could play “50-50” or “NO SIGNAL” on a TouchTunes jukebox and fool a crowded bar into thinking they were listening to a forgotten radio hit circa 2006. But the moments that are unequivocally “MICHELLE” are harder to come by. While nothing overstays its welcome, many tracks, such as the Chromatics-sounding “LOOKING GLASS,” end well before they’ve reached a definite conclusion.

But between the aforementioned dips into eccentricity, occasional quotables like “You can take the toaster. Leave me with the breadcrumbs,” and an overall sense of affection for each other and their forebears, it’s hard to dislike MICHELLE. And the appeal of seeing them play off each other in a live setting should be obvious while listening. They’re not one-of-a-kind, but they certainly know how to charm.

Pre-order After Dinner We Talk Dreams by Michelle HERE