With a flourish and fanatic devotion, Dear Reader is an intimate epistle, an album with unwavering love in mind and instrumentation to provide the necessary mood. Rivonia at first is a survivors’ guide, decadent with jumping harmonies, big band flourishes and captivating squeals from the accordion. “Now that I understood/Every man will just do as he wants,” the singer extols toward the end of the album, choosing to issue warning and enable broken hearts.
Rivonia is a discussion of the apartheid in South Africa, choosing the daunting task of representing the human hearts caught up in the messy politics. “Mother, my brother is dead in the gutter/Mother, my father is down in the ground/Down under, mining” searching for a place amidst the shifting environment. Rivonia is successfully wrought, it doesn’t fall victim to a too extreme position, it is merely a well-crafted catalog of events. The songs are optimistic by being detached.
Evoked emotion aside, Dear Reader is a product of international influence. The music on Rivonia is a marriage of elements that are often times left off pop music — chants in the background are the most powerful here to compel the concept album to stick together. Dear Reader is a band that once discovered needs to be seen live to affirm that the music is authentic, and then frustratingly there is a reminder that they’re from South Africa.
“So they came in the dry cleaning van/And they took them away,” is representative of the album. The dry cleaning van is innocuous, but a representative of what should be the normal, the everyday mundane, but it isn’t picking up and dropping off laundry. Where there is piano on Rivonia, it is sweeping and somber and where there are horns, they are funereal and big. As with most successful concept albums about political and societally-troubling matters, Rivonia is large and encompassing.