reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Daniel Wylie has had a long and distinguished career in songwriting, whether with his band, Cosmic Rough Riders, or as a solo artist. Throughout he has stayed true to a classic approach with plenty of room for influences from the 1960s onwards, but with room too for originality of thought in both music and lyrics.
Atoms And Energy is confirmation that the fire still burns brightly. Recorded in Glasgow’s La Chunky Studios in 2019, the album is headed by Wylie but includes contributions from Neil Sturgeon (acoustic guitars), Stu Kidd (percussion) and Johnny Smillie (electric guitars and arrangements), who also engineered the album
What’s the music like?
A mark of Wylie’s career has been his consistency. Even when he returned from the relative wilderness in 2004 to start his solo career with Ramshackle Beauty, the songs confirmed his quality threshold had not dimmed a bit – and the same is true now. If anything, life experience and the discipline of writing songs on an almost daily basis has fed into the music for Atoms And Energy, taking it right up there among the best work Wylie has yet produced.
The lyrics can always be clearly heard – a property often underrated in songs! – and they are notable for their frank and occasionally uncomfortable take on life, warts and all, especially on songs like God Is Nowhere. A melodic approach is sustained throughout, and after several hearings the listener will have several of these songs firmly embedded in the brain.
The lyrics are key to understanding where Wylie is at. A good deal of the memory bank is used as the songwriter harks back to childhood days, but he does so from the context of adulthood and particularly in the wake of his mother’s death. A Memory brings these reminiscences to life with great clarity, while the breezy Heaven’s Waiting Room hangs on to treasured memories while asking the pertinent question ‘why does everybody leave?’ Red Sunset (Green Eyes) is a whimsical number, and although Wylie is ‘feeling sad about my plight’, the outlook – musically at least – is positive.
Many of Wylie’s songs are bittersweet or have darker shades around the edges. The Bruises And The Blood is one such song, a thoughtful opener, while Ruth The Truth ups the ante on the guitar sound, a punchy number where ‘I caught her lying again’.
His wife remains the chief muse, and she appears to be the obvious inspiration for songs like Our Love Will Never Die, an unabashed and tender ode to a long relationship. Saddle Up The Horses comes from a similar emotional place, the album closer doffing its cap to Neil Young along the way.
Arguably the most striking of the nine here, however, is Listen To The Sound Of The Rain, a shimmering beauty that could have been written and imported from the late 1960s. Its dappled psychedelia stretches far in Wylie’s hands, the vocals beautifully poised as he sings of ‘a world full of wonder’, the guitar sound dancing on the musical horizon.
Does it all work?
Yes. Anyone familiar with Wylie’s previous work will know what to expect here – but with part of that expectation comes the knowledge that the songs won’t be routine and won’t be presented without emotive input or instrumental dexterity. The guitar playing is a strong feature of the record, and the lovely shimmering textures are a possible reflection of the cloud-strewn skies under which they were written.
Is it recommended?
Wholeheartedly. Daniel Wylie continues to write moving songs with hooks that take gradual root in the listener’s mind and then prove very difficult to dislodge. Atoms and Energy offers more of the same – but with even greater conviction and quality.
You can purchase Atoms and Energy from the Last Night From Glasgow website