A decade ago if you wanted to work in the pop music world you would’ve needed to have the big machine of labels, producers and songwriters behind you. The industry had cornered the market on bringing up pop stars and making sure they had everything they needed behind them to make them into stars. These days some of the best pop music is being created by singular artists on home recording gear in some of the most unlikely of places. One of the artists that is putting their own spin on popular music is Jackson Phillips AKA Day Wave. The Oakland, California native was propelled onto the scene with the release of his Headstrong EP in 2015 and found themselves on tour supporting the great Blonde Redhead shortly after that. Based on the merits of that EP and the subsequent tour that followed, Phillip found himself producing albums for Jai Wolf and then Pete Yorn and then he and his backing band all joined Yorn as his band for that album’s world tour. Now, with some time to himself and a move to Los Angeles, Phillip is back in full Day Wave mode with today’s release of their new EP Crush. Written and produced by Phillip himself at home the EP is a sharp reminder that the world of pop music isn’t simply limited to the people with access to the big machine.
The EP kicks off with “Starting Again” and its spacious production and huge melodies. The songs Day Wave craft are inspired by the everything from the likes of Guided By Voices to The Smiths but it all feels a certain kinship with the Bleachers project of Taylor Swift and Lorde producer Jack Antinoff. We do get a wonderfully shimmery New Order-esque guitar hook throughout that mixed with the song’s bobbing baseline do recall those 80s greats but everything here feels definitely rooted in a more modern day sensibility. “Potions” jumps out of the gates with an energetic double time drum beat and an irresistible chant-y vocal melody that builds to fruition in the song’s earworm of a chorus. “Empty” keeps this trend going but with a more DIY feel courtesy of the low fi guitar buzz that carries through the proceedings. Album closer and album namesake “Crush” is a beautiful piano based number that shows a different side of Phillip’s skillset that what was on display before. It’s a tranquil and satisfying close to the album.
Pop music is not what it used to be. There’s no underlying stigma anymore about it not being real or honest enough. Certainly Day Wave is a great example of one of the projects that highlights that you can make huge, widescreen pop music with integrity. Crush, while only running 14 minutes, is a strong showcase for Phillips work and one that leaves us waiting to hear what the artist will come up with next on an even larger scale.
review by Adam Fink
Crush by Day Wave is now out via Pias Recordings