Western Man is the new album from Daisy House, the California-based duo of vocalist Tatiana Hammond and her multi-instrumentalist father, Doug, and is, in their own words, “an attempt at making the ‘classic pop album'”.
‘Lilac Man’ opens the proceedings, its lyric referencing ancient ideas about the movement of the stars and the planets while its musical setting, arranged around a descending chord sequence evokes the golden years of late 1960s West Coast USA folk-rock.
The theme of supernatural, Faustian bargains epitomised in Robert Johnson’s ‘Cross Road Blues’ provide the springboard for ‘Yellow Moon Road’, although the rocky arrangement calls to mind The Doors with almost murmured vocals, Hammond organ and some blistering fuzz guitar breaks.
Over rolling snares and with a cryptic lyric, which may be about spirit guides, ‘The Defender’ leans towards the folkier end of the spectrum; jangling guitars and tinkling piano underpin this dreamy little number. Lifted by the harmonies of the duo, this is one of the record’s highlights.
The tempo picks up again for ‘The Boulevard’, a stream-of-consciousness love song of sorts referencing the Hollywood blockbuster Breakfast At Tiffany’s, its laidback rhythmic swing shot through with sweet harmonies and a bluesy harmonica break.
Another of the album’s highlights, ‘She Comes Runnin’ Back’ benefits from its rocky arrangement, again in the old-school West Coast USA folk-rock vein, to provide an edgy, guitar-driven counterpoint to its lyrical theme of making up and breaking up.
It’s followed by ‘Say Goodbye’, a more reflective, ballad arrangement well-suited to the lovelorn lyric about a relationship breakup which spotlights Tatiana’s rich, melodious vocal style to good effect.
‘Willow’ takes a good-natured and gentle poke at the great hippy dream of throwing off the urban shackles and getting back to nature. Its arrangement – which the PR notes describe as ‘Euro-centric-retro-pop’ – may sound home-made but don’t be fooled, it’s a spirited performance with a lot of detail that belies its seemingly ramshackle nature and it has the potential to be a commercially successful crossover hit.
The retro 1960s West Coast vibe returns with a vengeance in ‘Like A Superman’, its arrangement lifting its homespun lyrical philosophy of doing your own thing because life’s too short for anything else. Some sweet harmonies peer, wide-eyed and maybe a little woozy, through the scent of patchouli; I can imagine this belting out of car stereos across the nation on a hot summer’s day.
The midtempo ‘Golden Heart’ reflects on the state of emotional limbo brought about by being in love, its complex musical structure given a nicely human touch by the addition of a brief spoken-word passage in the coda.
The lyric of ‘Passing By’ muses on the passage of time but the midtempo arrangement featuring some breezy guitars keeps it all centred firmly in the here and now.
‘Twilight In the Palace Of Reason’ has a somewhat darker lyric addressing the terrorist attacks carried out in Paris in November 2015 and is matched by a darkly powerful arrangement in a song which calls to mind some of the classic folk-rock of Bob Dylan and The Band.
The album reaches its official end with the gaudy, Byrds-influenced jangle of ‘Twenty-one’ and its highly individual take on coming of age, it also features a hidden bonus in the form of the album’s title track, ‘Western Man’. It’s a complex arrangement, driven by piano and strings, sits well with the overall feel of the rest of the album.
Steeped in the classic sounds of the 1960s counterculture of the USA, Western Man wears its heart on its sleeve but avoids pastiche through Daisy House’s obvious awareness of (and influence by) contemporary musical trends. The result is a solidly listenable and enjoyable album, which should enhance the duo’s burgeoning reputation while paving the way for future musical explorations.
Review by: Helen Gregory
Western Man is out now and available via Bandcamp: daisyhouse.bandcamp.com/album/western-man