Let’s go ahead and get this out there: I might be the worst person to review this record. I’ve known Chad since we were about 16 years old. I watched him grow out of teen theater, and into Diesel Jeans. I’ve listened to the progression of his songwriting from his parents garage, to the studio, and even back to his folks house. I recorded some of his first pop songs. (Houseblend, anyone?) I saw the transformation from singer to songwriter, to artist, first hand.
I’m biased, if that’s not overwhelmingly obvious. But whatever. This isn’t about Chad. This is about The Dailies, which is a completely different thing entirely…
From the opening track, “Signal Chain“, the band does an impressive job of separating themselves from their debut record, “What It Is“. The first note imparts an urgency - unapologetic and confident. But right away, the smoky Rhodes and the timber of two partnered voices soften up the listener. You ride that airplane for a while, and then try to hang on as it soars through the chorus. This first track almost serves to introduce the listener to the band - I can practically see Rosy’s pursed lips and flailing arms as his snare drum introduces the bridge, Mike drops single notes on the piano that cut through the verse appropriately while Corey’s arpeggios return the favor. It’s like a conversation between musicians. At first, I thought this was a bit glaring. But after multiple listens to the entire record, it really works for the opening track. Not to mention, the mix of this track seems to serve the “introductory” purpose – a sound that isn’t embraced as much for the duration of the record.
To this listener, “Mixing Metaphors” is about growth. Like I said, it’s a biased opinion. Gone is the sound of the “All-To-Well-Thought-Out” chart and recipe. These songs seem to have a life of their own – with the exception of a few songs on their previous record, it’s a life that wasn’t present on “What It Is“. ”A Sovereign Nation” discusses the idea of conflict within a committed relationship – something very few songwriters are willing (or able, really) to tackle. The chorus pleads, “I don’t wanna go to war with you“, a defeated feeling all to familiar to the married/committed set.
Speaking of growth, during the recording of “What It Is“, I couldn’t imagine Chad and Erica letting Mike Lee “chase the rabbit” on “The Science Project” – an unforgettable moment on the record, where Mike was allowed to shape dozens and dozens of individual takes and tracks on a single piano. Playing the keys, brushing the strings, and slamming the lid. Letting Mike loose in the studio is a good idea. What follows is a sparse, haunting, and beautiful introduction to “Kiss Us Goodbye” – a clever and pretty song on it’s own, but Mike’s introduction softens the palate, and prepares you for the track. Somehow, I don’t think the song would work without it. I’ve heard that Erica spends quite a bit of time “editing” these songs, throughout their birth and growth. If that’s the trick that separates this record from the first, then please, keep it up.
Recording studios are very strange places. To the uninitiated, they’re nothing more than old Persian rugs, stale smells, and skinny Emo engineers seated behind rows of blinking lights. But to the artist, these rooms breathe. One inhales years of talented dust, and exhales something else entirely. What lived in your head and heart for weeks, as nothing more than time signatures and notes, eventually morphs into something unexpected – no doubt fertilized by the chemicals that are recording studios. ”She Goes” and ”Feel Good“ sound like they was written in the studio. They sound like sweet lil’ tunes, that chewed the old paint of the studio, and were shaped into something different. ”She Goes” is rife with metaphor and rhyme. It’s predictable. It’s pretty, to say the least. But to me, it sounds like the studio changed this song into something much more earnest and meaningful. It’s a true standout on this record. Corey and I first discussed the idea of this session being referred to as, “organic”, and this song seems to define that theory. “Feel Good” does exactly that to the listener – something that’s rare in the Smart-Pop genre.
We all know Chad can sing. Spend more than 5 minutes with him, and you’ll be well-versed in this talent. If not, google that shit. But Erica has pipes you’d not believe. In fact, if I have one overall complaint with this record, it’s that I don’t hear her as much as I’d like. “Love Brought You Here” has a cadence that is sweeping and lethargic at the same time. Don’t be fooled by it’s rather abrupt opening – this song quickly becomes something very unexpected. Erica’s vocal builds slowly, from something basic and essential, to something urgent and desperate. It’s a really wonderful progression, and a true test of her vocal meddle. “Love brought you here…I know you don’t see, but in time it will all be clear…” Simple and beautiful. Look for Erica Reisser’s solo record sometime next fall. (I’m pretty sure that the usual suspects would be involved, too – Mike, Rosy, Dana, Corey, etc…) Kidding. Maybe…
“Young Man” is the best song Chad has ever written. If you don’t agree, you’re wrong. It’s just that simple. For many years of listening to Chad’s music, I’ve been able to identify moments where I felt like he had a decision to make. Which chord to switch to, which solo to hide under, etc. ”Young Man” has none of these moments. It sounds pure, and unobstructed. Were there simply no decisions to be made? Or were all the right choices made, rendering the decision transparent? I don’t know. I can’t compare Chad’s writing to that of Springsteen (for many reasons, including the total lack of any drug addition, or working relationship with a Soprano) but this is Chad’s “Born to Run”. The story is clear, precise, and relevant. It’s relatable, in a time where most music really isn’t, and it paints a perfectly clear picture. It’s very organic songwriting, and feels like a real departure from his normal style. Ever heard Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Satisfied Mind“? It’s easy to hear that particular influence on “Young Man“. Kudos to Stick for a fantastic mix on this track. Upon first listen, you feel as if you know this road; you’ve driven it before, and you know which turn is coming next. But this song hangs on the precipice. You’re always right at the edge. You can either stay and listen, or you can jump off the edge and miss it entirely.
“The Tide” brings us home. Throughout the record, we’re treated to the multiple talents of The Dailies; each track is a showcase of individual feel and contribution. The last track on the record, “The Tide” is simple and direct, and brings the listener back into the room with the band. ”The waves roll out, and crash back in…and I am somehow comforted by their indifference“. It’s thick and hearty through the chorus. Jangly guitars, chunky distortion, a bass line that won’t quit. The ride cymbal carries us out of the bridge, and back to the ground.
Whether or not they planned it, “The Tide” reminds us of who the Dailies are. They are singers and songwriters, and also students of the craft. They are mothers and fathers, struggling to be adults themselves. They are evolving and growing, and the tide of the audience will forever rise and fall. No matter what is learned in the songwriting process, they’re never finished. ”Mixing Metaphors” is very much a snapshot in time; a “Frozen Man” of sorts. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter, and the snapshot that follows.