Mike Shannon, project leader behind Big Bus Dream, writes songs that feel nostalgic and complex – yet are as plain as day. His direct, honest lyrics arrive via his gently abrasive croon, and often weighty subject matter driven by a variety of intensities. With the project’s latest album, “Giant in My Mind”, Shannon reaches his songwriting stride. The songs are direct and simple on the outside, but are nonetheless impactful and complex on the inside. Big Bus Dream avoids virtuosity, building songs thick with atmosphere, mood and meaning.
The music’s integrity reveals the process of an honest songwriter. For one thing, Mike Shannon sings of struggles, obstacles, afflictions, and missteps rather convincingly. “If getting older and still making music wasn’t enough to think about, throw in a pandemic and you have plenty of time to think about your life. Add all the crazy politics and divide in this country and you have plenty to write about. Mostly, the record is about jumping, or just crashing through hurdles over the years – lots of hurdles,” explains Shannon, talking about the album.
Hooks are present but understated as Big Bus Dream deliver songs that build gradually. The ability to upgrade simple confessions to a state of elegant narration keeps the album above the water of its gloomier moments. Most songs revolve around what seems like a blend of minimal instrumentation, but it is not. Each listen revealing another layer of sonic intrigue.
Right from the opening title track, “Giant in My Mind” – which retraces aspirations and hopes as children – emotional sentiments pop up repeatedly throughout the album, which Big Bus Dream presents unvarnished, dealing with them in an almost fearless manner.
Between foreboding charges and righteous indignation Shannon works his way through “Pain” and “Shiver”. His knack for song-craft and album pacing drives the rhythmic impulses among profound and sturdy musical themes.
“So Very Old” hovers between a roots rock tune and a reggae motif. Compelling production brings out warmth, clarity and curious sonic interludes through the entire album, and especially on “It’s Over” which showcases series of stunning basslines. Bright chords underscore Shannon’s groan to a whispery growl on “Can’t Find The Tears”. Moods shift organically, as the levels of introspection benefit from varying adjustments.
Each of these tracks seem if they want to touch the audience at its core, and “My Cowboy” – which I suspect is about Shannon’s son – does just that, taken from a parent’s point of view. One of the most compelling features of the album is the relaxed, tranquil feeling it invites the listener to embrace, despite the lyrical intensity, and all the peculiar instrumental interludes. Everything swirls together harmoniously underneath Big Bus Dream’s narratives.
“Operator” epitomizes the use of all the aforementioned elements, as electric and acoustic guitars, emotional strings, and organic keys join in a slow-burning jamboree. The soft winding melodies and elaborated tales creep inside you as Shannon’s voice exclaims and croons on “Money To Burn” and “Teardrops”.
Big Bus Dream is a source of beautifully nuanced songs with an undercurrent of both melancholy and hope. The mood is positive in spite of life’s hurdles. If you lie down, with the lights out, and let the songs on “Giant in My Mind” immerse and absorb you, that’s exactly what will happen.
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