Dillon Ryan And The Dream Romantic Release “I Could Have” From New ‘In Polaroid’ Album

Never underestimate the cathartic power of a little negative thinking. After all, it got a lot of us through the ’80s. And now it’s making a winning comeback thanks to Moncton, NB, melancholia merchant Dillon Ryan and his band, The Dream Romantic, who’ve taken a refreshingly old school-stance against toxic positivity on their just-released third album, In Polaroid.

An immensely satisfying eight-song callback to the Goth/New Wave glory days of Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths and especially The Cure, the record hits every genre touchstone your black little heart could desire: clanging, chiming guitars; a relentlessly thwacking snare drum; and long, held keyboard notes that sit just below the threshold of human hearing. And of course, a lyrical and spiritual thrust that reassure us not to wallow in how bad things are now. Because there’s always the chance they’ll get worse.

First single “I Could Have” is an immediately indelible attention-grabber—hear it on a Friday, and you’ll really be in love—trading in triumphant major chords and a soaring vocal that ring tailor-made for the emotional climax of a John Hughes movie. It’s triumphant, that is, until you get to the lyrics—which is where the therapeutic defeatism comes in. The song chronicles the aftermath of an ill-fated youthful romance with all the earnest wistfulness of a journal entry filled out while tearfully scanning the clearance rack at Hot Topic:

And I feel our love
Is dying like a tidal wave
And I know you feel it’s true…
He could have
He could have loved you more
I should have
I should have known you more

“We’ve always been a group that proudly embraces our influences,” says singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryan. “I think most of the great bands of all time did that. But it isn’t limited to that.”

Indeed. Like the photo format its title references, In Polaroid is simultaneously retro and a picture that’s developing right before our eyes. For that, Ryan gives ample credit to Halifax-based co-producer John Mullane, whom he’s admired since Mullane’s days in the band In-Flight Safety. Mullane not only co-produced and mixed the record but co-wrote half of it, and his keyboards, guitar and bass are sprinkled throughout the album as well. The two have worked together since the summer of 2016, when Mullane quickly attained the status of a mentor: “He really taught me some valuable lessons on songwriting and production that I’ve used as gospel pretty much ever since,” Ryan says.

For the most part, though, the album amounts to a sonic coming-out party for the live lineup of The Dream Romantic: Julie Doucette on keyboards and vocals, David Gregory on bass and Alec Victor on drums.

“In a weird way, this is my debut album with the full band, but at the same time it feels almost like our ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘The Best of,’” Ryan says. “We’ve road-tested these songs for such a long time, and they’ve evolved and morphed over time. People who have followed the band over the past several years have developed a relationship and love for a lot of these songs just from hearing them live so many times.”

With over 700 shows under their belt, that’s a lot of love. Standout gigs have included appearances at major festivals in eastern Canada and multiple showcases at the East Coast Music Awards Festival and Conference. Along the way, the group has been nominated for four Music New Brunswick awards, winning the Fans’ Choice Award in 2017.

And now, with A Polaroid being shaken vigorously to life, expect the juggernaut of live activity to only accelerate and the accolades to continue to roll in. Why, it’s enough to bring a smile to any gloom-glammer’s face. Just don’t spread it around.