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Dalton - Dalton (Review)


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AMERICAN singer Dalton has delivered a rock-solid eponymous debut that is shot through with all the hallmarks of what it takes to become a rip-roaring success.

That is to say, there are big guitar numbers mixed with moodier, piano backed ballads, as well as slow-build epics. It’s a sound that may be familiar but which self-consciously nods to Dalton’s influences, whether its the maverick sound of Talking Heads, the classic style of Neil Young and Afghan Whigs, or even the stadium-filling, easy rock potential of acts like U2, Coldplay or Ben Howard.

And while the album itself may just miss out on instant classic status, it’s still strong enough to be notable, delivering some blistering tracks along the way.

Album opener Bedford & Grand sets the standard, kicking off amid some sombre piano chords, before slow-building towards some brasher guitar sounds and an epic sweep that firmly announces this singer’s heavyweight credentials.

And it maintains the robust sound on Breaker, the first true highlight, which drops an addictive central guitar loop/riff and has a raw, ragged, classic rock kind of feel. It’s a rousing number.

The guitars are pronounced again on What Never Should End, which even embodies a heavier sound in places reminiscent of Foo Fighters, while New Time slows down the tempo but still conjured up two insistent hooks – a tick-tock central one that is, again, fiercely compelling and immediately catchy and another, more intricate one that drops every now and again. Nate Harar’s vocals, meanwhile, are less gruff and more haunted on this occasion. And the change works a treat, adding to the diversity on show.

For The Last, on the other hand, dispenses with the guitars in favour of rambling piano chords and a brisk, hand-clap beats, that lends the song a feel-good, foot-tapping quality. It’s celebratory, in spite of the bittersweet elements underpinning the lyrics.

Another highlight emerges with Only Names, a brooding number that still manages to be melodic and somehow entrancing. Opening amid some hefty drum and glockenspiel beats, the track then drops a set of vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sigur Ros or recent Arcade Fire record.

There’s a big, broad, cinematic kind of sound to it, too, that while certainly empowering, could also be labelled ethereal. You can almost anticipate its use on a soundtrack moment soon.

Elsewhere, Control re-ignites proceedings with a moody rocker that’s shot through with livewire guitars (even if the vocals sound curiously mumbled), while Autumnal drops a nice acoustic folk-rock vibe that charms, and Second Life once again picks things up with another rock ‘n’ roll barnstormer.

So Long So Well then polishes things off with another dusky, broken guitar and a vocal that reverts back to being bruised and melancholic. It’s arguable whether Dalton should have ended things on such a reflective note (Second Life would have left listeners with a bigger rush). But by then, Dalton has done more than enough to convince listeners that he’s an artist worth sticking with. It’s a really good debut.

Download picks: Breaker, New Time, For The Last, Only Names, Autumnal, Second Life (Afterglow)

Track listing:

  1. Bedford & Grand
  2. Breaker
  3. What Never Should End
  4. New Time
  5. For The Last
  6. Only Names
  7. Control
  8. Autumnal
  9. Second Life (Afterglow)
  10. So Long, So Well