On the first taste of new music from The Juliana Theory in over 15 years, the band was ready to step back into the spotlight with a collection of re-imagined songs from previous records known today as A Dream Away. The project was inspired by their 2019 acoustic tour where they stripped back several of their classic songs in the style of a MTV Unplugged atmosphere. This process of thinking about the unique layers to these tracks inspired this album, and reinvigorated their fan-base by remembering why they fell in love with this band in the first place. The Juliana Theory leave no stone unturned in their exploration as they expand upon the realm of possibilities for what these songs were, and what they can be.
The set kicks off with the only new song in the collection, “Better Now,” but it interestingly fits the vibe of the rest of the tracks found on A Dream Away perfectly. The song is largely composed on the piano, and lead vocalist Brett Detar sounds as strong and as confident as he’s ever been in his career. The inspirational track tackles the idea of as bad as things can get, there are still silver linings we can look towards to realize that things won’t stay this way forever. It’s a great way to re-introduce themselves to their audience and sets the entire record on the right foot.
”Into the Dark” follows the brilliant opener with a sweeping backing orchestra that gradually gets louder as Detar and guitarist Josh Fiedler build to the crescendo of the chorus. The lyrics of, “In your eyes I see a darkness that torments you / And in your head where it dwells / I’d give you my hand if you’d reach out and grab it / Let’s walk away from this hell,” sound as gripping as they’ve ever been and the song swoons to its intended heights. “Is Patience Still Waiting?” follows up on the one-two punch of the thrilling openers with an acoustic guitar-based composition. Brett Detar’s vulnerable voice on this song makes for a memorable way of revisiting the classic The Juliana Theory track, and it takes on a new life with this particular version.
The boldest re-imagined track comes in the form of “We’re At The Top of The World” that sounds drastically different from the Emotion is Dead record. Detar’s bellowing vocal approach sounds improved on the new version and the song never strays too far from the campfire sing-a-long vibe the band were likely going for. The Juliana Theory add more depth to the slowed-down song by bringing the tempo way down from the original and hone in on the vocal harmonies to make for an enjoyable listening experience.
Other songs that took on new life through this record are the sprawling “Bring It Low,” that steadily builds on its own momentum as the track unfolds. What The Juliana Theory do particularly well on this version is to focus on the vibe of the lyrics to make for a haunting version of a song that gets plenty of new legs. The words of “Baby was a shooting star / She crawled into my heart / But time revealed that she was fading out” hang on with a lasting impact.
The record’s flaws are hidden fairly well, and if it suffers from anything, it would be that some of the songs sound too similar to each other and start to blend together if you aren’t listening too closely. A lot of these songs take on a similar vibe, and if you had the album on as background music, it may be difficult to decipher between ballads like “Constellation” and “Duane Joseph” that close out A Dream Away. Overall, this album is a great way for casual fans of The Juliana Theory to recognize the beauty of these songs taking on a new life, and for longtime fans to gain further perspective into the songwriting process of the ultra-talented Brett Detar and Josh Fiedler. One can only hope this record leaves The Juliana Theory with a sense of re-focused purpose as they look towards the future of what their band did well and can continue to explore the next steps in their evolution.