On his third album, Mississippi multi-instrumentalist Dent May sings that he’s “ready to be old” and, conversely, that he was “born too late.” Whether he wants to be in the future or the best, it’s clear that Dent May isn’t happy where he is. The 11 songs on Warm Blanket find May ruminating on unrequited love, the pains of growing up, and being lonely. Not that the album is a thoroughly depressing affair, however. Like the titular warm blanket, May’s compositions are sunshiny and lush, seemingly to try to comfort the singer along the way. The obvious emotional model here is The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. And while May’s arrangements and lyrics don’t reach the same level of brilliance as the 1966 masterpiece, his melodic sense is incredibly strong.
Melody has always been May’s strong point, but on Warm Blanket, he offers some of his most soaring and memorable tunes yet. Recorded almost entirely by the songwriter himself in a supposedly haunted Victorian house in Florida, the songs alternate between pseudo-disco, indie rock, and lush chamber pop. But at their core, they all share the same spirit of classic pop songwriting, which is why the best moments are when the songs are most stripped-down. When May sings, “Please, if you need anything/Let it be me” on “Yazoo,” in his haunting (or haunted) falsetto, you can’t help but want to wrap him up in one of those nicely temperatured blankets and tell him it’s all going to be alright. But he knows it won’t be, and he seems ok with that. On “Endlessly,” the singer asks over insistent acoustic guitar chords, “So why do tears keep falling?” He then answers himself, “Guess that’s never gonna change.” Even on the one song we find May happy, “Found a Friend,” it seems insincere, especially surrounded by the other songs of despair and loneliness. The song feels like a fantasy, not a reality. And when he sings, alluding to the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “Goodbye, darkness, my old friend/I will not see you again,” you feel that he knows better. But through all the pain and heartbreak, May is optimistic. On “Ready To Be Old,” May sings that he thinks “the future will feel much better than I feel now.” And that sentiment of longing for something better, hoping for something better, is what makes Warm Blanket a powerful album.