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Joseph Arthur - Nuclear Daydream

Joseph Arthur, Nuclear Daydream

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JOSEPH Arthur is often hailed as one of the foremost singr-songwriters working in the US – and one of the most prolific.

Nuclear Daydream is his fifth studio album and it’s being released simultaneously in the UK with Let’s Just Be (his sixth, to be reviewed next week).

American critics have already hailed it as a masterpiece and it’s easy to see why – the album is a lushly composed collection of 12 songs that encapsulate romance and despair.

Packed with some enchanting instrumentation (all delivered by Arthur himself) and driven by his vulnerable, husky vocals (that are sometimes reminiscent of Dylan and Beck), Nuclear Daydream is an utterly enthralling listen that seldom skips a beat.

Where former album Our Shadows Will Remain was a little more sombre (but no less fantastic), this retains a keen sense of hope even when chronicling romantic loss.

Album opener Too Much To Hide, for instance, appears quite upbeat thanks to some shimmering melodies, a keen tambourine back beat and a hopeful vocal performance that belies the somewhat melancholy lyrics. Some of the guitar riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on an REM record (circa Losing My Religion).

Black Lexus, meanwhile, washes over you in tranquil fashion – Arthur’s vocals appearing more haunted, his guitar licks less forceful early on. But once the percussion kicks in, it’s an utterly beguiling record that speaks of loss (“you can’t find her”) in strangely beautiful fashion.

The rest of the album follows along in similarly well-realised fashion, changing tempos with casual aplomb. Where Enough To Get Away contains a lively vibe, Slide Away is more reflective – but still builds to some thrilling crescendos.

Electrical Storm is couched in a stark beauty that’s emphasized by the haunting piano running through it, Automatic Situation draws on some atmospheric background electronics and an ultra-husky set of layered vocals, and Don’t Tell Your Eyes is pure Sea Change era Beck, albeit with a renewed sense of hope – just check out the “Jesus loves you more than you know” chorus, almost as though Arthur is delivering his own rallying call to a nation battered into doubt and fear by its political leaders.

Further highlights come from the brooding Don’t Give Up On People, which hint at gospel and Lennon’s Imagine piano backing, and title track Nuclear Daydream, which brings the album to a richly rewarding and thought-provoking close.

But that’s not to say that the tracks that haven’t been mentioned are any less notable – rather, they all combine to create another memorable experience from Arthur and one that’s certain to figure among the year’s best.

The only hope is that more people get to find out about him…

Download picks: Black Lexus, Slide Away, Automatic Situation, Too Much To Hide, Don’t Tell Your Eyes, Nuclear Daydream, Don’t Give Up On People

Track listing:

  1. Too Much to Hide
  2. Black Lexus
  3. Enough to Get Away
  4. Slide Away
  5. Electrical Storm
  6. You Are Free
  7. Automatic Situation
  8. When I Was Running out of Time
  9. Don’t Tell Your Eyes
  10. Don’t Give Up on People
  11. Woman
  12. Nuclear Daydream