[30 June 2006]
Baby Dayliner is Ethan Marunas to his parents, but this musician made some strides a few years ago with his impressive and critically acclaimed debut album. The songs on that album, High Heart & Low Estate, sounded like Morrissey if he bypassed Johnny Marr and went into a keyboard or Casio outlet to inspire him. The songs were somewhat mysterious, lending themselves greatly to Baby Dayliner’s soft, somewhat crooner approach. Other influences certainly include Leonard Cohen as well, due to the musician’s somewhat deadpan delivery at times. Now we have Baby Daliner’s sophomore release, entitled Critics Pass Away, which might be a shot at certain people, but who can say? What I do know is that this album is a bit more refined and layered, beginning with the upbeat, up-tempo and rather odd “At Least”, which sounds like a cross between Moz, Rufus Wainwright, and Ron Sexsmith at times. It’s an interesting tune to start off with, but Baby Dayliner sounds confident, and with good reason, because this song is very, very strong and pleasing to the senses. Or, as the National’s Matt Berninger puts it, “It’s a dance party for sexy intellectuals”.
From there, Baby Dayliner seems to take a funky bass riff during the bouncy, danceable title track that brings to mind Duran Duran after spending a weekend binging on New Order. Quite poppy and pleasing without going into a higher gear or pace, the song is a definite keeper. Meanwhile, the artist gets into a thicker groove and backbeat with “House and Confusion”, which could be construed as Joe Jackson walking down some New York street holding a huge ghetto blaster as he strolls the city. Another asset is how the beat isn’t a “thump thump thump” one that would be found in any rave or large festival tent. Instead, it’s more like an old-school dance beat that has disco hues to it in some respects. He goes just a hair too mellow, though, with the slow, sultry and somewhat soothing “The Way You Look Tonight”, which could be compared to Depeche Mode covering Al Green, or some other soul-singing icon. Baby Dayliner mines this genre or niche just a tad further with the flourishing electro-pop smarts oozing out of “Through These Hills”. It is, to say the least, quite appealing, and would be lapped up by fans of David Byrne or Talking Heads.
That isn’t to say that every seed Baby Dayliner plants into this musical ground comes up smelling like daisies. A good example of this is “Whodunit?”, which sounds far too schmaltzy or lounge-like for its own good, with its Latin-lite feeling and flavoring. This is more like a quick throwaway tune, or at worst filler, but the artist quickly throws cold water on his face and returns with a slightly more focused, yet winding “Go on Baby”, which could be a song to himself as much as it is to his love. Other times, Baby Dayliner doesn’t croon so much as rap, as he does with the rather quirky and at times bizarrely built “Small Town Halls”, which has some Middle Eastern hues to it, while the backbeat is pure hip-hop.
The first true attempt at being radio-friendly is the string-laced, hi-hat-led “Silent Places” that is instantly catchy and never falters in any spot, moving into a quasi-galloping beat as the strings become richer in texture. It’s sort of like the Killers’ Brandon Flowers if he was left to his own devices. Baby Dayliner gets some help here (as he does with a few other tunes) from Damien Paris. Unfortunately, not much can save “Nature’s Clause”, as it is about as syrupy and ‘70s as one can get before talking about fantastic feelings in his abdominals. Despite this miscue, though, Baby Dayliner has made another quirky but engaging album that might be a bit camp for some tastes, but still has enough oomph to easily get it over the bar.
Baby Dayliner - Silent Places