Daley - Days & Nights

Daley
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The wait has been nearly four years since Daley burst on the scene, barely 21 years old, as the guest vocalist and co-writer on the 2010 Top 40 Gorillaz smash “Doncamatic.” Soon thereafter, on the eve of 2011, Those Who Wait, an underground digital EP, spread like wildfire among those in the know, spotlighting star-making cuts like “Game Over,” “Smoking Gun,” and “Alone Together,” a Top 5 U.S. R&B duet with fellow Brit Marsha Ambrosius that has now been placed on three Daley releases, including his long-awaited major label debut, Days and Nights. A series of mixed bag EPs and singles, including “Broken,” “Look Up,” and “Remember Me (feat. Jessie J),” have been setting up Daley’s release for two years, but whose musical variance has created something of a haze in communicating with his longtime fans what the direction of Days and Nights would be. Would they make the blue-eyed soul singer a pop star?

The wait has been nearly four years since Daley burst on the scene, barely 21 years old, as the guest vocalist and co-writer on the 2010 Top 40 Gorillaz smash “Doncamatic.” Soon thereafter, on the eve of 2011, Those Who Wait, an underground digital EP, spread like wildfire among those in the know, spotlighting star-making cuts like “Game Over,” “Smoking Gun,” and “Alone Together,” a Top 5 U.S. R&B duet with fellow Brit Marsha Ambrosius that has now been placed on three Daley releases, including his long-awaited major label debut, Days and Nights. A series of mixed bag EPs and singles, including “Broken,” “Look Up,” and “Remember Me (feat. Jessie J),” have been setting up Daley’s release for two years, but whose musical variance has created something of a haze in communicating with his longtime fans what the direction of Days and Nights would be. Would they make the blue-eyed soul singer a pop star? Techno soul? Urban alternative? What? The final diagnosis, Daley’s midnight collection is a little bit of everything, most of it good.

Still a young 24 year of age, Daley’s prodigious writing of such brilliant nuggets as “Let It Go” and “Spent” (who could deny lines like: “you said you’d pay me back/plus the rent/ but I think you’re spent/I think we’re spent?”) raised the bar exceedingly high on fan’s expectations of Daley. Vocal performances reminiscent of a young Maxwell and Jimmy Scott on covers of Amy Winehouse’s “Love Is A Losing Game,” Angie Stone’s “More Than A Woman,” and Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings,” solidified Daley as an emotional interpreter of great sensitivity and range. All of his early work before he signed with Polydor and Republic Records (both subsidiaries of Universal) was squarely rooted in the traditions of R&B and soul; the latter material flirted with multiple pop and urban genres, including the synthy electronic trends that swallowed whole what made Daley’s voice special in today’s cookie cutter marketplace. Which is why the presence of such material as the atmospheric doo wop of “Look Up,” produced and co-written by Pharrell Williams, and the feel good, mid-tempo swing of “Pass It On,” produced by Canei Finch and co-written by Marsha Ambrosius, are so relieving.

Equally welcome are the presence of the sultry hit, “Alone Together,” and early YouTube cuts like “Be” produced and co-written by Andre Harris of Dre and Vidal fame (Musiq, Jill Scott), and “Blame The World,” co-written by early collaborator Shea Taylor and the legendary Andrea Martin (Monica, Toni Braxton). The original acoustic versions of “Be” and “Blame The World” are superior in their fragility and vulnerabilities, qualities somewhat muted by dark and astral contemporary productions they’ve been laid into on Days and Nights. Still, lyrically both cuts hold up even as their interpreter holds back.

If there is a running concern with Daley’s Days and Nights it is that he does hold back quite a bit here, his tenor appearing more masculine, fuller, and restrained than on the feather light and high spaces he was willing to venture on the ten-track Those Who Wait. Here the Jimmy Scott and even the Maxwell comparisons cease, but the sincerity and earnestness remain. In shedding these iconic influences, Daley may be becoming more of himself, but it’s a less distinct and compelling sound so far, especially on the new originals like “Love and Affection” and the rare peppy tune, “Good News.” With exceptions such as “Time Travel,” on Days and Nights Daley is also less likely to be as layered as he was on cuts like “Let It Go” and “Game Over,” which gave opportunities for Daley to show off his different voices and ability to create a soft density with just his overdubbed voice. It’s a missed opportunity on a ballad heavy project where some of the producers' minimalism choices are overdone and over-reliant on a lead that’s already restraining itself from singing full out.

The results, while slick and modern, aren’t perfect and certainly not consistently as interesting as those hard won on Those Who Wait, when Daley was hungry and few believed in him. Still, there are enough undeniable singles and B-sides on Days and Nights to carry Daley forward to a second release and further exploration into his fine lyricism and interpretive skills as a vocalist. Like Adele’s 19 before her diamond-selling 21, an equally young and talented Daley may still be baking the cake that could lead him to become Manchester’s first superstar since Simply Red (I knew I’d recognized that ball of wild hair before…must be a regional thing). With the right collaborators, all that’s needed is time, space, and experience for him to be more, not less, of his uncontained self and ideally turning a deaf ear to label influence, with their penchant for safety over artistry. Hopefully, Daley’s experience and success with his first major label album, both positive and negative, will ensure he gets it. Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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