We review the new album from Dan McKean – As Sure As Day Is Light
With a unique view on the world, having both Anglo and Iranian heritage, Dan McKean’s view on the world is reflected in his introspective and chilled musical style. Now returning with a sophomore effort after Leave The West Behind, there’s a clear evolution and drive for growth within his music, incorporating different sounds and instruments to achieve a new sound.
Starting out the album, Started Out So Well, is immediately indicative of the lo-fi style that McKean is exploring on his latest album. With plenty of acoustic sounds, including a chilled keyboard through line, a gentle acoustic guitar, and bass that’s so laid back it’s got a sleepy aspect to it. Yet this lineup of instruments is accented by a drum machine that adds a more modern texture to the track that gives it a much more edge and a modern pop and RnB vibe.
Aching is the next track, and it wears the influence of Paul McCartney on its sleeve unabashedly. It dials back the tempo to something so slow it’s almost a gentle lullaby. Incorporating keyboard sounds that are reminiscent of blues, and gospel church music with its organ-like sound. It’s bluesy and laid back to the max, and despite its sad vibe, its gentle musicianship lets it slip nice relaxed happiness into the mix.
All I Know is a track that uses a piano chord to great effect and shows just how little it takes to make a fantastic song. Folding in a very low-key drum beat and gentle guitar backing. Showcasing how simplicity can sometimes be more effective than an overly intricate beat. By this measure, All I Know is a simple and beautiful love song that is saddening yet beautifully sweet.
Capable is the first song so far that is a much faster tempo, bringing in a great percussive track and some more lively electric guitars. It’s a hell of a wakeup call after the first three tracks could easily send you into a gentle sleep. Despite this, it keeps the gentle aspect, whilst also bringing a fun and strong country influence to it. The guitars do absolute wonders, with a heavy country inspiration that livens up the album and gives a much needed injection of energy.
Thousand Reasons is next, and keeps the guitars front and centre. Though they are once again acoustic and now take on a more folk style. And they’re almost the only thing present, minus the vocals and drum beat that’s so gentle it’s almost not there. Thousand Reasons itself is another love song, and once again keeps the heartfelt and moving lyrics that are vivid and moving. Showcasing McKean’s excellent skills as a songwriter.
Doesn’t Take A Lot moves back to a more typical arrangement, folding the piano, drums and guitars all together once again, for a full arrangement. But this time we’re treated some simple vocal distortion that gives of an extremely old school vibe. It’s a song that sounds like it’s being played through a record player, and it really sells the throwback vibe.
Blissful is like a part 2 to Doesn’t Take A Lot, following up with similar sounds and overall presentation. Keeping the the vocal distortion and even adding in some subtle effects that give it that crispy record vibe. Once again we’re treated to some wonderfully chilled out guitars and keyboard moments that are perfect for a chilled summer afternoon.
The next track, Instruction, is comprised almost entirely of just guitar and vocals. And whilst some other instruments do pop in at moments, such as drums during the chorus, the track is yet another chilled out bop that meanders easily along and pays very little care to the goings on of much else. At nearly 5 minutes, it’s pretty fantastic how relaxed a song can be, and really pushes the bar as to how far you can go with that idea.
The title track, As Sure As Day Is Light, immediately sets itself apart from the rest with just a little extra. Opening with some ambient sounds that continue subtly for the entire runtime. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with violins, guitar, drums, keyboard, and a whole cornucopia of instruments joining the fray. The chorus in particular is the most lively part of the album and is a veritable explosion compared to the rest of the album, despite the continual laid back style still holding strong. It’s easily the most musically engaging and interesting, and just sets it out as exactly what a title track should be, the gold standard of an album and it’s crowning achievement.
The penultimate track, Respond In Kind, drops it back down to another ballad track, using piano and drums to backdrop another storybook love song that’s extremely bittersweet. Keeping some of the ambience around adds a much needed extra element in there to set it apart. As the track progresses closer and closer to its final chorus, it builds up to an incredible ending guitar solo that peters off into ambience and closes the song perfectly.
The final track, Wheat opens with a tune that sounds straight out of a music box tune. Proceeding the bring in some more country and blues drums and keyboard, it becomes this excellent send off for the album and encapsulates a lot of what the album contains in it’s presentation, sound and overall feeling.
As Sure As Day Is Light, as an album is an exploration of easy listening music, utilising a variety of genres that work surprisingly well together. With fantastic musicianship throughout, and beautiful storytelling in its lyrics, it’s a tight album from start to finish, and one that’s perfect for some lazy afternoon listening. It really encapsulates a lot of McKean within it, showcasing his amazing songwriting and musicianship throughout. On repeat listens though, some songs may blur together and feel a little samey but this could vary for different listeners. On the whole, it’s a masterclass in the production of gentle folk music.