REVIEW: Daisyhead – ‘The Smallest Light’

daisyhead

Artist: Daisyhead
Album: The Smallest Light
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Emo
Label: No Sleep Records

If the recent vinyl revival has done nothing else, we can say it has changed the way record labels present and introduce their newest artists. A debut LP used to be a new artist’s opening statement, but for Daisyhead and plenty of other bands on vinyl-focused labels like No Sleep Records, that’s no longer the case. By the time they first make their way into our consciousness through splits, 7″ singles, EPs and free digital samplers, their first full-length release feels more like a culmination than a starting point.

Daisyhead’s debut LP The Smallest Light comes on the heels of an under-the-radar 2013 EP and two newer songs (“Dishonest” and “Wonder”) the band released last year, shortly after signing with No Sleep Records. These two tracks, released as their half of a split with Have Mercy, acted as a trailer of sorts for the band, showcasing an incredibly broad array of emotions and dynamic range of sounds in just under ten minutes that had me, for one, clamoring for a full collection of Daisyhead songs. But in a way, The Smallest Light is a victim of Daisyhead’s own early success.

Daisyhead’s sound is a throwback to early 2000s post-hardcore/emo, and the band would be doing themselves a great disservice if they don’t push to appear on as many Riot Fest lineups as possible over the next few years. Assuming they’re able to find their way into the earholes of older nostalgia-seeking Taking Back Sunday or The Get Up Kids fans, they should have no problem winning them over and expanding their fanbase beyond the younger No Sleep loyalists drawn to the label by recent successes like Moose Blood, Major League and Balance & Composure.

Musically, Daisyhead has a heavier edge than any of the aforementioned bands, but lead vocalist Michael Roe is more than polished enough for alternative rock radio. The Smallest Light starts out appropriately loud with the blaring guitars of “Defenseless,” a track that really hits its mark when Roe breaks away from his clean tone into an angsty howl when he asks, “Why do you always say the same thing?”

But the album’s second song, “Lacking Basis,” is almost so similar that you forget one song has ended and another has begun, with Roe going for a nearly identical vocal accent when he screams, “I knew you’d come back around.” This lack of variation quickly becomes a trend.

By the time the record reaches its midway point, it’s clear the band acknowledges a need to slow things down with “Lead” and the instrumental interlude “The Halt.” The two tracks seem born from the same idea and could have easily been rearranged to make one sprawling 8-minute track that would have been a welcomed change-up amidst the parade of 4-minute mid-tempo rockers, similar to the way Cloud Nothings always throws in that one meandering marathon track to break up the monotony of hearing too many short, fast punk rock songs in a row.

While Daisyhead’s lyrics are surprisingly confident, and it’s refreshing to hear young people attack a topic like suicide with such a head-on approach as they do on “Neck” (“I’m sorry I wasn’t there / I’m sorry I couldn’t change your mind / I used to think I was so destructive / In the end I was something left behind”), the band still does nothing musically to grab your attention the way they did with “Dishonest” from that Have Mercy split.

“Dishonest” had that hooky lead guitar part that really shimmered over the track’s shoegazey ocean of low-end distortion, and I can’t recall a single guitar lead in this entire album. It also had an excellent pre-chorus, complete with a sudden tempo change that built back into an anthemic chorus that gets stuck in your head unlike anything on The Smallest Light.

Quite simply, none of The Smallest Light‘s rockers bang nearly as hard as “Dishonest” and none of the more tender tracks are as emotive as “Wonder.” It’s fair to wonder if the band wasted their two standout tracks on a split, rather than waiting to release them on this full-length. But it’s also hard to fault them for that move, as those two tracks successfully built buzz around the band and surely sold them more pre-orders for The Smallest Light than they would have otherwise.

Those two tracks should have been a sign of things to come. But instead, they remain a tease, a glimpse into a potential that wasn’t met on this release. If anything on The Smallest Light comes close to matching this potential, it’s “East Bend,” the b-side’s standout ballad and a cathartic letter to a young man’s mother, with Roe asking all the questions any son wishes he could ask — “When you’re alone, do you think about your sons and feel proud? Did we grow up the way that you wanted us to?”

Perhaps I was expecting too much out of this release because, you know, not every debut album is going to be Tell All Your Friends or What It Is To Burn. I just saw such promise in Daisyhead. In a way, I still do. And sometimes it’s best not to peak so early. Hell, it took bands like Thursday and Thrice two or three albums to really hit their stride. But if The Smallest Light is just a jumping off point for Daisyhead, then perhaps the band puts it best themselves when they close “I Didn’t Deserve This,” the album’s final track, by repeating the phrase “Where do I go from here?”

Time will tell.

SCORE: 5.5/10
Review written by Kevin Blumeyer (follow him on Twitter)

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