All of this makes Gonzalez a pretty easy target. Fail to share his taste for extremes and his music seems impossibly Napoleonic, and yet somehow simultaneously insular. I mean, nobody wants to troll through another's stories of childhood, no matter how pretty the telling. But Gonzalez's wistfulness has always seemed almost nobly universal. These are big songs about things that seemed small at the time, mutual pasts enhanced and made movie-huge by the passage of years.
Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen and aided by former Medicine guitarist Brad Laner, long-time associate Morgan Kibby and goth-blonde Zola Jesus, Gonzalez outdoes himself on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming: a double album in tribute to the hefty documents of pre-digital, pre-iTunes yesteryear. Sonically, it seems like a combination of the bedroom shoegaze vistas of Before the Dawn Heals Us and the gummy pseudo-pop anthems of Saturdays=Youth. As he's stated in interviews, it's a fond look back at record buying days; the weight and texture of a new album in hand. Midnight releases. An album now targeted, of course, at many who are too young to cherish those years.
Fortunately, whatever your past with product, Dreaming is often bewitching. For the first time, Gonzalez himself is a huge vocal presence, treading in the kind of half-shard yelp fans will tie back to Panda Bear. You don't really have to understand what he's singing; I think I've caught about five words in my many weeks with the album. Opener "Intro," with Zola Jesus' help and an immense choir behind her, sets the tone at mammoth; lead single "Midnight City" is even brawnier, with Gonzalez's vocal a textural hum amidst headrush synth melodies, a stiff drum churn and Springsteenean sax blurts."Wait," on the other hand, is a gorgeous guitar-strum ballad—a Toto song relayed from a bleak winter rain in the Moors—followed quickly by the aforementioned charming frog fantasia "Raconte-Moi Histoire." Meanwhile, "Claudia Lewis," with its slippery slap bass and Gonzalez's vocals as out front and naked as they've ever been, treads closest to the Hughesian approximations he's long been accused of.
As with every double album, there are plenty of moments Gonzalez might have shed. Some of the instrumental bridgework here is shoddily laid. Anyone familiar with his ambient record, Digital Shades Vol. 1, understands atmospheric drift is not his strength. As such, much of the second disc in particular begins to slip from your grasp. But there are enough moments of heft and hold—the guitar-synth grind of "New Map," the fiesta-like guitar stroll of "Year One, One UFO" or especially the whirlpool ascendance of late album standout "Steve McQueen"—that to condemn the work wholly based on its excesses and flaws is to fundamentally misunderstand it. Few artists set out to make the double album; it's typically the result of studio hyperactivity. Gonzalez did, and if there are moments of shadowy decline, they only serve to emphasize just how sunblind and delirious the rest sound.