I received an email from a young man by the name of Adam Daniel (Hi, Adam!), who has an album he wanted me to listen to and then tell you about.
Adam is a power pop purveyor from those United States of America (not all of them, though – Adam’s probably just from one state), and his album is the cutely titled Pop, Baby.
This here’s the album, accompanied by a few (probably unwarranted) thoughts on it:
Adam Daniel – Pop, Baby (2013)
1. “Summer’s Coming”
This reminds me a bit of three songs. Overall, I’m reminded of Paul Kelly’s “Dumb Things” (1988). And parts of the chorus remind me of the chorus of Fastball’s “The Way” (1998).
Most noticeably, the chorus of Adam’s song shares the same chord progression as the chorus of Fountains Of Wayne’s “The Summer Place”. The chord progression is F, C, G, E7, Am, F, C, G, and E7. You can hear it in Adam’s song from 0:26-0:53, and in the Fountains Of Wayne song from 0:48-1:02.
Except for the Fountains of Wayne thing, none of this is terribly specific. It’s more the “vibe” than anything.
I must admit that I was a little surprised at Adam’s voice, in that I find it ever-so-slightly weedy. It’s a little thinner than I had imagined. When the song started I thought the music sounded muscular, and I imagined that when the voice came in it was going to be a big booming baritone. Adam’s is a light tenor.
I like the moody middle eight (1:50-2:19). The two things I liked most about it were the wonderfully disorienting digital delay applied to the vocals, and the sound of the bass drum. That’s a really nice bass drum sound.
I also like the sound of the guitar in the solo (2:20-2:38).
This is a solid pop song.
And one more comment about this track…
3:36-3:48 – Well, that’s one way to end a song.
2. “In And Out Of Love”
A little bit too “smooth pop” for my liking. It’s certainly heartfelt, though. It’s just that it’s not touching my heart in the way I think it’s supposed to. (Cue Adam shouting: “You’re heartless!”)
Oh, and speaking of musical coincidences: the vocal melody in the chorus of this song is the same as the one in the chorus of Rob Bonfiglio’s “Blow Me Away”, but reversed. They share the same melody, but in Adam’s song the notes are high/low/high/low, whereas in Rob’s they’re low/high/low/high.
Instead of awkwardly trying to explain it, how about I just show you?
Adam Daniel – “In And Out Of Love” (2013) (excerpt)
Rob Bonfiglio – “Blow Me Away” (2008) (excerpt)
High/low/high/low versus low/high/low/high. Simple.
Now back to “In And Out Of Love”.
I like the chord choice at 2:40-2:41.
3. “Regret Shuffle”
0:00-0:04 – This tiny part of the introduction made me think I was hearing a tonight-show band. (“And right after the break we’ll be joined by the latest movie heart-throb who’ll be telling us how great his latest movie is, and how he got on so well with his co-stars, and how it had always been his dream to work with the movie’s director…”)
0:04 onwards – A tricky riff. I like it.
0:43 – That was a nice touch.
1:16-1:31 – A mighty fine guitar solo. Nothing fancy, just a nice’n’solid solo.
I’ll enjoy playing that one again.
4. “Your Gravity”
A sweet song that sounds to me a little late-Fifties/early-Sixties-inspired in its chord progression and rhythm. Maybe it’s sounding more early-Seventies.
The vocal melody in the chorus reminds me of something else, but I can’t think of what that something is. Grrr.
In the time it took me to type those two paragraphs the song finished. I can’t think of that other song. The melody’s now stuck in my head, but my neurons aren’t making the connection. Ah well. Next song.
Not to be confused with…
Adam’s “Invisible” starts off a bit unpromisingly to me. It starts with a slow techno beat. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to techno music. I don’t know what kind of slow techno music I thought it was going to be. Is it called “dub step”? “House dub”? “Rub a dub-dub”? Anyway, this is the kind of thing that reminds me of Björk when she decides to slow things right down.
I’m also not especially keen on the gospel choir yelling “Oh yeah!” at various times in the song. (They go “Oh yeah!” in earnest and repeatedly from 1:47-2:16 and then from 2:51-3:25.)
I don’t know why Adam decided to add that effect to his voice from 1:13-1:43. He didn’t have it on his voice anywhere else in the song, so what was special about those lines that warranted the sound effect?
The more I listened to this song, the more its mood reminded me of late Pink Floyd (i.e., after The Wall).
Speaking of Pink Floyd, who was doing all that “Great Gig In The Sky” singing from 2:52-3:25? I don’t think it was Adam. (Update: It was someone called Laura Drew. Hi, Laura!)
Nup. “Invisible” didn’t do much for me.
6. “Quantum Love”
Oh-oh. Every time I see the word “quantum” in a title, I remember Quantum Of Solace, the dreadfully-named James Bond movie that had its star, Daniel Craig, spending a great deal of time in interviews trying to explain why it was called that. (He seemed to spend more time talking about the title than the actual movie.)
Despite all of that, how about I just listen to the song?
I’m now listening to it.
Nope. This one isn’t doing much for me either. And the studio trick with the plummeting background vocals from 1:04-1:07 didn’t help.
I did like the choice of chord at 1:23 though. And the well-played guitar solo from 1:50-2:09 was, er, well-played. But the rest of the song simply put me in the mood to hear the next song (as in: “I’d like this song to finish so I can hear the next one”).
7. “Long Cold Winter”
I prefer this to the two previous tracks, but only by a little.
I like the bells.
Songwriting criticism: In the choruses (e.g., 1:32) I think the D in the vocal and the C sharp in the chord clash horribly.
1:50-1:52 – very nice.
Actually, the more I listen to “Long Cold Winter” the more I think it’s a fine song – but I also think its emotional effect is dampened by coming directly after two very low-key songs.
I really hope the next song is upbeat.
Well, it’s not upbeat, but it is pretty.
Given that this is track 8 out of 13, I dare say Adam considers this to be the emotional heart of the album.
Be that as it may, I’m still looking for an upbeat song.
9. “Dream Out Loud”
Hooray! An upbeat song. This one’s a little bit funkeh.
Here comes another coincidence…
The chorus of “Dream Out Loud” (0:59-1:17) reminds me of the chorus of Living Colour’s “Cult Of Personality” (1988).
1:32 – You are talking about those potato fritter things called hash browns here, aren’t you Adam?
10. “Sailing Ships”
Oh-oh. Another low-key song.
This is nice enough, but where are the pop songs?
11. “Dying In Slow Motion”
This is pleasant, with its steady chk-chk-chk-chk eighth-note rhythm, but I’m still keen on hearing something a little cheerier.
I will say this about Adam: he’s very thoughtful.
The more I’m listening to this album, the more I’m thinking it’s not really power pop. I think this album could more reasonably be filed under “Adult Oriented Rock” in your local record store.
Oh, and what’s with the I’m-on-the-other-end-of-the-telephone sound effect on the voice from 3:18-3:53? Why do so many musicians use that effect? It gives me the heebie jeebies. As far as I’m concerned, the only time it’s ever been used properly (i.e., in context) is on Electric Light Orchestra’s “Telephone Line” (1976).
12. “These Shy Things”
Adam being thoughtful again.
13. “Hold On”
Adam sure is thoughtful – and I think I’m suffering from an overload of tenderness.
2:12-2:30 – I like the use of brass here. (Note to Adam: If you ever feel the need to re-record this song, would you mind having the brass louder next time?)
3:29-4:31 – More brass. Yum.
Well, I’ve now heard the album in its entirety and have a very definite view about it:
I think the album’s OK. I enjoyed it in parts, but overall it was a bit too, er, thoughtful for my liking. I reckon if Adam ditched about three songs I would have enjoyed it more.
And that’s my semi-considered opinion.