"City Dreams The Album" was inititally conceived as a musical take on a collection of prose poems published in 1860 by French poet Charles Baudelaire called "Paris Spleen." Each short essay -- written in prose, but with the spirit and feel of poetry -- imparted stories and impressions of the city and its dwellers. In the end, "Paris Spleen" served only as a point of departure (not a source of material) for the creation of a thematically-centered compilation of songs. "City Dreams The Album", based roughly around the persona of a young girl in the city, is a concept album, embracing a theme and a direction, but without a specific narrative.

Musically, I had initially planned to wed my fascination with "trip hop" -- inspired by the likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Lamb, and others -- with jazz, especially with reference to Robert Glasper, whose compositions often conveyed to me the mood of a melancholy city-dweller. However, onto these styles I wanted to impart a strong lyrical vocal line and an accessible song-form. No surprise, then, that the style, in the end, veered more toward Pop, and in the two years of working on the album, I slowly discovered my pop soul. The original influences remain, though, especially in the album's detailed production, much of it programmed.

Both for variety and to emphasize that the project was a concept album -- not a narrative -- I brought several different vocalists to the project, many of whom I've worked with over the years. Julia Johanos sings on four key tracks; I had long hoped to utilize the darker, more mysterious sides of Julia's voice in a trip-hop environment. Tayler Bledsoe provides a strong pop-flavor on "Cathedral Bells," and a dark, aching quality on "Downtown." Emily Luhrs sings on two of the sweeter, more delicate tracks, and Avi Gottlieb closes out the album by singing to the "city girl" (a perspective shift) in the most romantically-oriented track on the album. And mid-way through the album, Chicago slam-poet Kay Kron's poem "Willow Tree Princess" is set to music.

I’d love to hear your comments about the album.  Write me at: dangraeber1@comcast.net  Also, check out my new blog, featuring a series on the making of City Dreams.

-- Daniel Graeber, April 2010