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Dayseeker - 'Sleeptalk' Album Review


1. Drunk

2. Crooked Soul

3. Burial Plot

4. Sleeptalk

5. The Embers Glow

6. The Color Black

7. Already Numb

8. Gates Of Ivory

9. Starving To Be Empty

10. Crash And Burn

Post-Hardcore music has been going through some growing pains in recent years. Bands throughout the 10s have been trying to push the genre as far as they can into new directions. From the Pop-focused efforts of Bring Me The Horizon, to the electronic stylings of Arcane Roots and early Enter Shikari, the genre has been trying its hand out at ‘maturity’ to varying degrees of success. ‘Sleeptalk’ documents a band in a similar state of transition, one in which they know where they want to go, but they’re not quite sure how to get there.

Dayseeker are a band hailing from Orange County, California and their 4th album shows the band attempting that fabled ‘crossover album’. Whilst there has always been some level of Pop appeal to the band’s earlier work, with catchy choruses and melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pop-Punk album, ‘Sleeptalk’ shows the band fully embracing their Pop influences. That isn’t to say that the heaviness has completely gone! Most songs on this album show a blend of the band’s aggressive style and their new, predominantly Electronic Pop aesthetic, but instead of morphing the band into something unique, it comes off as two separate records fighting against one another.

The album starts out with ‘Drunk’ and it is the perfect representation of what sort of vibe the band are going for this time around. It opens up with atmospheric, ethereal sounds, electronic beats, lightly auto-tuned vocals and a backing vocoder, resulting in something that would feel more suited to a Post Malone song than an Architects tune. Whilst it’s admirable to see them immersing themselves in this new style so completely, it just comes across as, well...boring! I’ll be the first to admit that once the chorus kicks in, it changes gears completely and opens up with this huge cathartic release, but the build up is just too long, too repetitive and too derivative of a million other modern Pop-Rock bands. Which is a shame because that chorus is so damn strong! Rory Rodriquez’s vocals soar over heavy guitars, arpeggiated lead lines and epic backing vocals, waking up the listener and screaming in their face to wake up and listen!...but then the Electronic elements come sauntering back in and put you straight back to sleep.

It’s unfortunate to say that this is a formula that the band employs on the majority of this album. Soft, slow Electronic intro and verses, followed by brilliant, loud anthemic choruses, followed by quiet, unoriginal Pop passages. This formula lays itself bear on cuts such as ‘Burial Plot’, ‘Sleeptalk’ and ‘Starving To Be Empty’, where any excitement built up from the choruses quickly deflates as the Pop sound comes creeping back in. I realise this comes across very negative and I have to make it clear that it isn’t because I don’t like this album, it’s because there are so many elements of a great Post-Hardcore/Metalcore album here, ruined by a sub-par EDM/Pop album trying to force its way in.

‘Crooked Soul’ gets the balance much better than the opener, with a stronger emphasis on the heavier side of the group. The opening riff comes charging out of the gate and and the song wastes no time in hitting you as hard as it can. Whilst the soft EDM/Pop sound does come back in on the verses, the lightly picked guitars, unusual vocal melodies and lively drums give it a bit more energy and variety, keeping things interesting at the very least throughout the whole track. It’s during this song that another problem rears its head however, and that’s the production. To give the choruses more depth and to fully flesh out the stadium-sized sound they’re going for here, there are layers of synths backing up the loud guitars and vocals across this album, however this has the negative effect of muddying the mix and filing down any edge or aggression the guitars once had. It’s the sound of a band neutering themselves to be a bit more palatable to the masses.

Throughout this album I found myself fully engaged and excited by these euphoric, huge choruses (see: ‘Burial Plot’, ‘Crash And Burn’), then completely switched off by generic, cookie- cutter Pop verses (see: ‘Burial Plot’, ‘Crash And Burn’), both in equal measure. It’s no surprise that the heavier songs show the band at their best, with ‘Gates Of Ivory’ and ‘The Color Black’ offering up intricately built, mind-bending breakdowns and heavy, chugging riffs. They truly let their creativity fly in these rare moments and I was never quite sure where they were going to take me next. But there is some merit in the poppier side of the band, with ‘Starving To Be Empty’ being their best attempt at a straight Pop-Rock crossover. This duet with Rory and guest vocalist Seneca Pettee features the usual EDM/Pop inspired sound, but the impassioned vocal performances and irresistibly catchy chorus eventually won me round in the end. On the other end of the spectrum you have ‘Already Numb’ and... the less said about that song the better. Its dull, flaccid instrumentation attempt to make it come across as an acoustic ballad, but the vocals could’ve been copied and pasted in from any of their other songs, emulating the worst parts of Linkin Park’s ‘One More Light’. Despite trying to come across as as a tender moment it’s just as loud and in your face as the rest of the album and doesn’t provide the change of pace it promises.

I came out of this album after a few listens liking it more than I disliked it, but so many elements hold it back from being great. The heavy and soft moments compete with each for the listener’s attention and they almost always sound at odds with each other. This comes to a climax with ‘Crash And Burn’, where the verses show the band trying to incorporate heavy acoustic drums into their Pop style and it just comes across as band confused by its own sound. However the cyclical, tapped lead guitar line snaking in and out of itself and the unusual Muse-like chord progression in the chorus create one of the most intriguing songs on the record. I want to like it, and I do to some extent but, like the record on the whole, there’s just too much holding me back from fully embracing it. It seems too often these days that bands in this scene ‘grow up’ and try to change their style to try and sound more like everyone else, but growing up doesn’t have to mean forgetting where you’ve come from.

Review - Spencer Rixon

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