Album Review: Jeremiah Daly – SPIL.

Jeremiah Daly is one of my favorite songwriters.

When I found out that Daly released a 2019 album, I ran to listen to it and was not disappointed. There’s a thoughtful style to his acoustic-based songwriting that continues to sooth my soul. In a world where so many songwriters move away from what made them great, Daly gives us a delightful contribution of “more of the same” introspective songwriting.

The lamenting “I’m still here” on the first track “Second Wind” is enough to make a grown man cry. There’s a declarative self determinism to the song that definitely pulls the listener in. You feel like you’re looking in on an intimate conversation but it actually works really well. “I think of you and how you’re always right. And I hope I don’t compare you with my wife.” Wow. That’ll floor you. See what I mean?

The second track “Without Wear” is the quintessential “lush” existential or purpose-seeking song. I’ve compared Daly to Noah Gundersen in the past. I’ll say that with Gundersen’s recent turn away from the folk stylings that drew many of his fans to his music, I’m happy to say that Daly is filling in that void. Thoughtful, engaging, and unrushed… the song will help you consider how so many of us are people pleasers and we need to take stock in that.

The chord changes on “Energy” make me incredibly happy. I can’t quite figure out what’s going on musically other than to say that the complexity makes the song really stand out in the acoustic folk scene. I love the at-times soaring vocal style that is peppered in with more relaxed, almost spoken styles as well. The use of dynamics in this music shows that you don’t need to have massive production to take the listener on an emotional ride. (That said, the string work on this track is pretty fantastic.)

I’m going to try not to sound repetitive but, like, I love the chord changes on “Crumble.” There’s this sweet little pause that Daly takes after the first chorus to express the following verse. These delicate phrasing sections remind me of one of my favorite songwriters, Matt Thiessen. The lyrics about finally NOT feeling someone – whew – if you’ve ever been broken hearted this song is going to break you into a million pieces.

“Heavy Expectations” is a much more string-heavy track than the others on the album. In fact, the texture of the track sounds more like a film score than a typical folk tune. But then Daly enters the track with a fantastic guitar line and his always-poetic lyrical style. I don’t throw this around lightly; this one’s got shades of early Dylan in it. This is absolutely a must-hear track for fans of pop folk music.

The track “As the Robins Sing” has an old timey style to it. Something about it reminds me of classic country. It’s about loneliness and finding yourself (like a lot of the album), but it does so with some flippancy which differs than the rest of the album. The penultimate track “Smell the Roses” uses a similar natural phenomenon to address more questions of existential meaning. There’s something deeply satisfying about the way Daly essentially duets with his own guitar. He uses the guitar to deliver one line then his voice to deliver the “response” of the call and response. By the time the strings enter, you probably already have your eyes closed to soak it in.

The final track “Heaven” reminds me of something you might hear out on the prairie about 125 years ago. I don’t know why the string work reminds me of the old cowboy songs, but it does. I think it sounds like “Home on the Range” a little. But the line “there’s a place in my heaven for you” is absolutely something I’ve thought about and prayed myself. I feel so “seen” by Daly when I work through his album. When the gang vocal enters the chorus of this track, you can’t help but thing of old time gospel music. It gives me chills. I hope it does for you, too.

This is an album of the year candidate. I love all of the songs. I love Daly’s sincerity, lyricism, and depth. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better songwriter making music right now. Please share this review with your friends so we can help Daly keep doing what he loves (and is clearly gifted to do).

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