David Lynch's 'The Big Dream': What the Critics Are Saying

The director's second album features a collaboration with Swedish chanteuse Lykke Li and a cover of Bob Dylan’s "The Ballad of Hollis Brown."

Discontent to merely churn out critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated films, auteur David Lynch drops his second studio album today. 

Best known for films The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive and co-creating the groundbreaking '90s cult show Twin Peaks, Lynch hasn’t graced the big screen with a feature effort since 2006’s Inland Empire, but hopefully this will satiate fans.

Musically, the album marks a turn for Lynch, who surprised listeners with his first foray, 2011’s Crazy Clown Time. For The Big Dream, Lynch collaborated with Big Dean Hurley, working together to develop songs out of spontaneous jam sessions. The finished album boasts 11 original tracks, a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” and a bonus track that's a collaboration with Swedish singer Lykke Li.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lynch draws a line from filmmaking to making music, saying: “It all connects to the world of ideas. … You catch at idea you really love, and it’s instilled with so much inspiration, it makes you leap out of the chair and go toward it.”

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The Boston Globe’s James Reed christened it “a big improvement,” noting “Lynch’s voice, thin and reedy but also elastic enough to convey the elusiveness of his lyrics, is hypnotic and more upfront this time around.” He further notes that it “is indeed modern blues as filtered through Lynch’s warped mind, where life unfolds in the shadows in slow motion.”

Less convinced was Andy Gill of the U.K.'s Independent, who accuses Lynch of sounding “like an intellectual playing bogus trailer-trash. He believes “Lynch uses a skeletal sound that’s like creaky slowed-down rockability in places, with rough guitar and clunky beats behind his plaintive voice.”

On a more enthusiastic note, Rolling Stone’s Steve Appleford writes that Lynch “pairs spooky noir tones and echoes of early rock & roll with songs of heartache and tense soundscapes.”  He channels different musicians, and “On 'Last Call,' his lonesome vocal is something like a weirder Neil Young set against a gently cascading guitar.”

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Towing the middle, Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson writes that Lynch “knows how sound works and the kinds of emotional responses it can generate. So the fat low-end and ringing twang of 'Star Dream Girl' put you into a very specific head space within about five seconds.” While appreciating Lynch’s style, he disparages the songs themselves, for “as songs, they don’t do much or say much. There are no new wrinkles, no moments of surprise or recognition. It hints at fear and creepiness and dreaminess without ever embodying them.”

Writing for Consequence of Sound, critic Paula Mejia notes the "frustrations within The Big Dream lie in the pauses, which require a certain degree of patience. ... It’s an embalming, ambient listen, but it’s hardly as engaging as the entombed mystery within Crazy Clown Time."

Los Angeles fans will have a chance to decide for themselves tonight in Hollywood when David Lynch performs at Amoeba Records.

Twitter: @THRMusic