In the landscape of Friends of Dean Martinez, you are not alone. It could be aliens. It could be ghosts from the distant past. It could be wolves eyeing you as a potential meal. Whatever it is, this album raises those goosebumps that tell you you're being watched even when you think you're completely alone. And yet, it isn't uncomfortable. It is something you're aware of just as you would be aware of a faint breeze in a hot desert. It reminds you that your sixth sense is really just a sense, after all, and not as out of place as you tend to assume it might be.
The album starts off with "So Well Remembered," a creation worthy of their original name, Friends of Dean Martin, which had to be changed for legal reasons. An edgy, lounge-type song, it is accented with the warm tones of an organ to counteract the anxious percussion. This is a song that I would expect to hear on an old-fashioned heist movie like Oceans Eleven. There is no hesitation because there can't be; if you stop to look back at whoever is chasing you, you're as good as dead. But there is the excitement, as well, of having done something great. I don't think it's a coincidence that anticipation and nervousness are hard to differentiate on the scale of emotions.
The next song is my absolute favorite, "Ripcord." I imagine only places like Macchu Piccho or Chaco Canyon could inspire such introspective and haunting music. Whenever I even think of visiting a place like that, my mind's eye projects images of the people who lived there thousands of years ago. Being able to walk in a civilization's ruins always gives me this strange feeling of simultaneously being transported back in time and communicating with the dead that once roamed there. It's a creepy feeling, but something I treasure nonetheless. "Ripcord" embodies this feeling perfectly.
"Winter Palace" is a little creepy as well. It's like stepping out of your home to find the world all sparkling and white with snow. For a moment, you simply enjoy the sight, but then your mind slowly tricks itself into thinking that you are the only person left in the world, that if you walked or drove in any direction, you would find the world abandoned.
There are songs that are not as creepy, however. "Dusk" is, to me, about Dean Martinez getting kicked out of the car by his girlfriend in the middle of nowhere on the way to Las Vegas. The sun is going down as he grudgingly realizes she isn't planning on coming back for him. There are no other cars in either direction. It's a good thing he has his jeans tucked into his cowboy boots or he would have to worry about scorpions and snakes that he might encounter as he trudges on. The sun keeps sinking further; the highway is empty. Dean gets more and more nervous about being out in the open desert at night.... Finally, he sees his girlfriend's car coming back in his direction. When she pulls up to him at last, she jumps out and hugs him apologetically.
The circling wolves dissipate as the two speed away. 8/10 -- Eden Hemming Rose (25 May, 2005)