Hitting up The Shaky Knees Festival on day two is Oakland-grown Day Wave, comprised of Jackson Phillips and his production prowess. His new EP, released on March 4th, is the newest installation of an artist who makes the act of making good music appear so effortless it drives me nuts. It is called Hard to Read, and it was very easy to listen to.
“Deadbeat Girl” begins with warm tones that fill you up like a cup of tea after a long day, then the vocals come in, with sneakers windswept hair. This song is laid back and cool like a nighttime impromptu trip to the beach, and it flows with the intimacy of an invite-only concert at someone’s home.
The album continues, with “Gone.” The vocals are what Elliott Smith might sound like, had he taken a different path. And the lyrics show songwriting with similar soul: “Things I’ll never say / Keep them tucked away cause I changed / And the things you want to hear / They all disappear / They’re not here”. This song details the impermanence of everything – the good, the bad, and everything that does not neatly fit into those categories. The steady instrumentals amplify the phantasm of vocals as ephemeral as to parallel the lyrics. The song ends suddenly, driving home the point. But that’s okay, because soon enough, “Hard to Read” comes to the rescue in a silence made uncomfortable by knowing you are in the presence of someone who can do such wonderful things with sound. This song is infused with the confusion of a person who is trying in vain to understand someone who just won’t communicate. The music moves along, as if in cahoots with Jackson as he tries, again and again, to understand.
“Stuck” is a solid track. It shifts and turns and contorts and wriggles but throughout, maintains the same shape. It reminded me of how I felt the first time I heard The Shins. And I’m so glad the album doesn’t end here. The final song on the album, “You,” has production reminiscent of some of the Gui Boratto I had on repeat at one point. The song is electronic and relaxed at once, it floats and flows and glides and moves like when you hold a hand horizontal outside the car window.
Hard to Read makes me so glad that Day Wave released this EP so soon, but bitterly wishing he had released a full length album so I could enjoy it longer. But perhaps it’s better that Jackson doesn’t indulge his fans’ pleasure-seeking behaviors. I think it was Aristotle who espoused the idea that inaction is more powerful than action. Thus, restraint is better than surfeit.
Get your fill of Day Wave on the second day of Shaky Knees. Your ears will thank you.
Day Wave – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)
More Shaky Knees Festival Coverage
- The Japanese House – Clean EP Review