Pearl Charles, “Sleepless Dreamer”
Pearl Charles has a deft ability to compose radio-friendly fodder that oscillates between Nashville and her native California Coast, but her soft-handed approach is so pervasive that it (ironically) renders her elusive. The songs are light as air and hard to grasp—they’re difficult to really feel. The result is the sense that you’re glad for Charles, happy she’s seemingly doing her thing, but there’s no great compulsion to stay connected to these songs or this album.
This isn’t to say the album is meritless. There are moments; but again, just moments. So while the hook in “All The Boys” skips with glee, it’s only just there and the brevity frustrates… It skips away.
When Charles succeeds, she’s spectacular, as in the title track. From the breezy guitar and drum build that leads into the verse to the way the chorus elevates with double-tracked vocals, “Sleepless Dreamer” rolls out of the speakers like it wants to be heard. Charles takes control and ownership.
The predominant takeaway from Sleepless Dreamer is that, while Charles loves experimenting with melancholy and a “summer bummer” sensation (as she’s referred to it), she’s currently too cautious to go there herself; even after a series of listens, no real sense of Charles’s personality is revealed. “Blue-Eyed Angel” has lilting vocals that sit atop broom-sweep acoustic guitars recalling Laura Cantrell, and “Ghost” dances nicely within a Fleetwood Mac–lite framework, so perhaps Sleepless Dreamer’s stylistic spread is a tonic to singer/songwriter populism. But with Charles’s compositional flittering, she appears inclined to pretend from a distance rather than perform and be present.