Albums of the week: From Juliana Daugherty to Roger Daltrey
American singer-songwriter Juliana Daugherty wows with her haunting, evocative album Light, while The Who’s Roger Daltrey commands attention with a new solo effort.
JULIANA DAUGHERTY — LIGHT
What a beautiful voice Juliana Daugherty has. It’s like honey oozing, spilling gently over the twanging of guitar strings, all songbird softness and subtlety but with the power to hypnotise without warning. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Charlottesville, Virginia, lays out her most intimate feelings on this vulnerable, haunting album, largely using disarmingly delicate music while undressing the issues around mental illness.
“I wrote this record partly to strip mental illness of its power,” Daugherty says.
Title track Light, which Daugherty admits is the darkest song on the record, is a striking piece of work, while Easier is a gorgeous ballad, her vocals towering above all else. The album feels like one long track, each one blending into the next, but it’s a pleasant journey that begs you to dig deeper, to listen harder and to feel something.
ROGER DALTREY — AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU
Other veteran singers must listen with envy to the astonishing vocal control and power Daltrey is able to command. The Who frontman is joined by guitarist Pete Townshend as he returns to his soul music beginnings, when the band played small church halls.
Two new tracks are nestled in between covers of some of Daltrey’s favourite songs. The 74-year-old completely owns some of these reworkings.
His soulful howl soars over honking horns and hot guitar licks in a barnstorming rendition of Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothin’.
A more unusual choice is Nick Cave’s sombre Into My Arms. Daltrey offers a version too similar to the original. Even his delivery seems to mimic the Australian singer, which prompts unfavourable comparisons.
Daltrey’s vocal abilities belie his age. But on the closer, self-penned tear-jerker Always Heading Home, a lifetime of memories are audible in his voice.
FATHER JOHN MISTY — GOD’S FAVOURITE CUSTOMER
Only a year since his last album, this is yet more evidence that Misty is one of his generation’s foremost songwriters.
Josh Tillman, to give his real name, is in a long line of artists running from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Sufjan Stevens and Rufus Wainwright, men who spin stories across any combination of keys, guitars and sweeping string arrangements with a dry wit, underlying melancholy and timeless musical tone. A musician who would feel as at home fronting a 10-person band in a packed auditorium as he would slumped at a dive bar piano at four in the morning.
Yet throughout this new record — variously described as a “heartache album” or about “misadventure” — he never seems to break a sweat. Perhaps the fact the songs tumbled out of the former Fleet Foxes drummer in a six-week stint living in a hotel is evidence that this was a record Tillman needed to make, a demon to exorcise, rather than a concerted effort to explore new musical territory. The world better be ready when he really wants to shake things up.
BEN HOWARD — NOONDAY DREAM
Howard’s third LP cries out for a chorus. The Brit-winning, Mercury-nominated British folk musician has continued his journey into the sonic textures he explored on his last album.
These textures can be beautiful, but lack direction. Opening Nica Libres At Dusk sets the pace nicely, The Defeat is an interesting experiment in electronica, and lead single A Boat To An Island On The Wall finds a groove in its second verse.
But many tracks follow the format of closer Murmurations, with the music desperate to become epic, but instead forced to stay in the sonic sludge. Foals and Bon Iver have explored similar sound territory, but this lacks the singalong moments that make their best work shine.
Overall, the albums is like the desert Howard is in on the cover; atmospheric, but it could do with flowers to break up the landscape.
TRACYANNE & DANNY — TRACYANNE & DANNY
This collaboration between Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura), and Danny Coughlan (Crybaby) mixes all the 60s girl group pop, doo-wop and country you’d expect.
The centrepiece is Alabama, Tracyanne’s joyous tribute to ex-bandmate Carey Lander, who died in 2015. It’s all pedal steel, strings, insistent organs, producer Edwin Collins popping up on vocals and a chorus so infectious it sticks in your head for days. Deep In The Night sounds like the best out-take from The Jesus And Mary Chain’s partly acoustic Stoned & Dethroned album, with Campbell and Coughlan complementing each other perfectly.