- It's been nine years since The Juan Maclean's debut album and 12 since the eerie, acidic electro of their debut single, By The Time I Get To Venus. With their third album, In A Dream, it's becoming increasingly clear that The Juan Maclean are in it for the long haul. Always rounded out by a rotating cast of players—this time including their touring drummer Jim Orso, Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost! and Midnight Magic's keyboardist Morgan Wiley—the group is still centered around its core duo: John Maclean and Nancy Whang.
Maclean has spoken in interviews about wanting to hone his songwriting into more traditional pop formats, following the sprawling, kraut-indebted house of his debut album, Less Than Human. On their second album, The Future Will Come, these attempts often felt nude and skeletal, leaving an awkward gap between the dance floor excesses of "Tonight" or "Happy House" and the more restrained creations of "One Day" or "Human Disaster." The latter sometimes seemed more like sketches or place-holders, which made for a puzzling album experience.
In A Dream, though, is an album as coherent and endlessly playable as the dance music full-length can get. On "Love Stops Here," for example, Maclean's penned a gorgeous arpeggiated lament about distance, loneliness and the simple comforts of memory that may just be the best thing he's ever written. Opener "A Place Called Space," with its aggressive guitar picking, is stranded somewhere between the deep-night disco of Giorgio Moroder and the sleek, industrial prowling of Factory Floor. Elsewhere, there's tubby, warbling house ("Here I Am), strutting electro ("Charlotte") and even whispery, pre-dawn Balearic ("The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love").
Nestled within the record's core are three songs with some of the most slyly nimble vocal hooks Nancy Whang has ever done. "You Were A Runaway" begins as lighter disco-pop until she slips into its potent chorus. On "Running Back To You," she seems to slither in and out of the track's strobing keyboards and slow drums, knowing it will adhere to her movements. But "I've Waited For So Long" might be the best testament to her role here. She and Maclean swap vocals across glistening, dark-street arpeggiations and a deep, steady analogue crunch, but it's her defiant and mournful lyrics—"leaving you to your life / I'm living high and dry / but I'll get by"—where the track takes off. It closes a trio of songs that show how, with In A Dream, Maclean and Whang have crafted some of most expertly tuneful music of their career.
01. A Place Called Space
02. Here I Am
03. Love Stops Here
04. You Were A Runaway
05. Running Back To You
06. I've Waited So Long
08. A Simple Design
09. The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love