Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes
Fun. No, not the Queen ripping off, indie pop darlings. It’s the IRL emotion. Many artists releasing and consumers consuming songs about fun, seem to have been lied to about the definition. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes have rediscovered the uninhibited state with their debut album: Civilized Man. The keyboard in almost every number stands out like a glittery star on stage. That star is the lead singer, a pseudo-conductor of sorts whose voice is gracious, welcoming, and earnest about his emotions. Chick magnet? Check. In fact, I’m pretty sure Daniel’s married. So, I guess not. Still, it comes through on the record how his voice is quite romantic and, at times, hypnotic: a mix of Elton John, Randy Newman, and Freddie Mercury. A duet with a newly happy Adele would fit in soundly on Civilized Man which attests to the type of sound that we could expect on her album. In other words, Fans of Adele, you shouldn’t be afraid of this album. Hah.
As for the band, when I saw them last anyway, they had a blonde but he’s not on the site! He was the second guitarist. Wait, he’s dyed his hair blonde. Change is good. The group is very attractive and I’m so confused how they snuck under the major labels’ radar. I told them when I met them that they were extraordinarily marketable. Enough of that. Let’s get down to the music.
Lead Single: [Shoe Fits]
When they said it was their hit song from the album and that it was dance-y, my first thought was Metro Station. I was half right. They obviously had no idea who Metro Station was, so I forged ahead into the electronica revolution of the late 2000s and early Twenty Teens it clicked a little there. So, it had that repetitive soprano electronic melody like in many Neon Trees or The Killers songs. Difference would be that Ellsworth’s vocals are flirty and honest. It’s so feel-good it almost could count as a guilty pleasure. Rhythmically: four-on-the-floor club beat, pulsing bass line; up top: glitzy synth ostinato and handclaps. It’s all organic and played live! It’s what I had imagined my last summer after high school soundtrack would sound like after I saw “Sixteen Candles” for the first time.
Other Songs from Civilized Man:
Guitar riffs of an impressive magnitude find their way woven into the fabric of almost every song on Civilized Man. Noteworthy tracks include first track, [Bloody Tongue] a throwback to 60s blues and rock about a worse-off ex-girlfriend. [Edison Lightbulb] features a great instrumental break lead by guitar. An excellent Spanish guitar riff to set the mood of [Wolf is Me] which is mostly bluegrass. Real honkytonk goes down on [Follow Me Home], a wise choice for a second single. Mumford & Sons might fight you but it’s more entertaining than most of their stuff. [Hieroglyphs] is another blues-fueled number and they’re more Frankie Valley on [Only One for Me]. He jumps mercilessly around the modern singer-songwriters that are worth their salt from Regina Spektor to Sara Bareilles to Jason Mraz to Dave Matthews. All executed with great musicality, creativity, and passion. The only truly slow song is [Surrender] which tests the steadiness of the guitarist and pianist. Static piano, uneven bass, hypnotic guitar strum and the mood is patient, chill, and full of unrealized kinetic energy. At all times, harmonies are tight and in tune, live or recorded.
After seeing them live, and then listening to the mastered work here on Civilized Man I christen them musicians. Real-live, modern gentlemen musicians with a real knack for crafting gorgeous, spontaneously fun rock songs. They are quite hipster chic with their tweed suits, wool ties, and crafted suede shoes. Since most of the promotional photography has been taken, Daniel has lost considerable weight, Marshall’s “gone blonde”, and the Joel and Timon, already showing very positive self-style ideas, dress well and in genre and vogue. Their music screams to be played in stadiums and to be thoroughly enjoyed in dive bars. It’s an everyman’s sound and a relaxed civility that pervades and lifts bluegrass, blues, and rockabilly to new dimensions in Civilized Man, produced by Mark Nevers (98°, Brooks & Dunn, Tanya Tucker, Lampchop, and Kirk Franklin). In short, they are incredibly fun entertainers, effortlessly charming men, and they represent all the music promise of a generation that listens to junk. Daniel Ellis & The Great Lakes are the real deal. Don’t blink, they’re on their way.