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Daniel Merriweather - Love & War

Daniel Merriweather, Love & War

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DANIEL Merriweather has been generating some buzz ever since he shot to prominence as the voice of Mark Ronson’s cover of Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.

Singles such as Change and Red, not to mention another guest appearance on Wiley’s Cash In My Pocket, have given rise to the suspicion that, in Merriweather, music fans had another star in the making.

His debut album Love & War confirms that suspicion. It’s an extremely classy, soulful and funky offering that’s brimming with cool cuts.

Yes, the proliferation of soulful artists who combine retro Motown-inspired elements with an Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson kind of vibe is threatening to flood the marketplace at the moment, but in Merriweather’s case there’s plenty of room for another.

Ironically, Love & War is produced by Ronson and competently fuses psyched out acoustic folk with elements of Motown, Stax and neo-soul/pop.

It also draws on a range of emotions from romances gone wrong through the disillusionment of city living, the struggles of day-to-day life and the current state of the over-developed world.

There are standout tracks aplenty. Recent single Red is, quite possibly, one of the standout soul ballads of the year. Featuring Sean Lennon on guitar, it’s a slow-builder that draws on Merriweather’s silky smooth vocals and some beautiful strings, and which works on several levels.

On the one hand, it’s a break-up anthem, but dig further and the relationship serves as a metaphor for looming political change and imploding capitalism, for the blindness of war and the current absence of compassion displayed by western administrations. As such, it’s evidence of Merriweather’s songwriting ability.

If Red represents the more serious side of the album, then tracks like the California Dreamin’ sampling Could You represent the sound of him chilling out. It’s a pure summer-time anthem of the smoothest quality, but which doesn’t lazily incorporate the sample – more the spirit of it, imbuing it with Merriweather’s own lyrics (“could you be my sunshine on a cloudy day”).

Airplay hit Change is a spritely piano-based slice of soul that comfortably counter-balances Merriweather’s soulful style with a rap from Wale, whilst laying down one of the funkiest percussions of the album. It’s when Ronson’s presence shines.

Likewise, Impossible, with its cute guitar licks and funky shuffle, and the moody Live By Night, which was recently described by Ryan Adams, no less, as being like “a blowjob on a yacht”.

Adele supplies a strong collaboration on Water & A Flame, another moody ballad, Cigarettes offers a dusky, bluesy lament about “fucking up” and regret, and Chainsaw drops more funky horns and hammonds over an ode to a dysfunctional relationship that’s more destructive than good. It’s another highlight.

But then Merriweather has delivered an LP that’s full of choice picks, and one that very definitely should find a place on everyone’s playlist for 2009.

Download picks: Red, Change, Chainsaw, Could You, Water & A Flame, Impossible, Cigarettes

Track listing:

  1. For Your Money
  2. Impossible
  3. Change (feat Wale)
  4. Chainsaw
  5. Cigarettes
  6. Red
  7. Could You
  8. Getting Out
  9. Water & A Flame (feat Adele)
  10. Giving Everything Away For Free
  11. Not Giving Up
  12. Live By Night