Music

Daniel Pearson: Mercury State

Daniel Pearson's sophomore effort is captivating and assured. It's a commanding showing from a strong new voice.


Daniel Pearson

Mercury State

Label: Saint in the City
US Release Date: 2012-11-19
UK Release Date: 2012-11-19
Amazon
iTunes

Daniel Pearson sounds experienced, confident, and fully in command of his craft. That's somewhat of a surprise considering Mercury State is only his second record. More surprising, it sits comfortably alongside folk and americana classics while bringing some non-traditional genre elements to the mix, most intriguingly an unexpectedly tasteful garage influence. Aided by longtime collaborator Jeremy Platt, he manages to let every genre peacefully coexist, none overshadowing the others. While the two-man operation's live-recording minimal overdubs approach could have made that near-impossible to achieve, it sounds effortless. Realizing how well-rounded and fully formed Mercury State is doesn't take much though, it's evident from the outset with opening track "Factory Floor" establishing a lot of groundwork.

"Factory Floor" is a brilliant opening track, showcasing Pearson's lyrical talent and outstanding vocal presence, while also demonstrating an enviable knack for tactful arrangements within the duo's minimal limitations. It's a quiet stunner that uncoils slowly and grips the listener from start to finish. Pearson doesn't wait around very long to get some teeth-gnashing in though, following it immediately with the garage-crunch of "Promises". Some soulful organ work punctuates the garage feel while an unceasing bass drum pattern drives it along. With that one-two punch of songs, Pearson aptly demonstrates both his range and command of craft. It's a thrilling start to a record that's better than it has any right to be.

While the record's only other song to hit that upbeat tempo is four tracks down with "Temptation", it doesn't lose that sense of adventurous variety in its midsection. "I Still Believe" is a tale of an all-too-familiar harrowing struggle to maintain consistency. Wrapped up in the everyday-style trappings, it's difficult not to be at least somewhat moved by or connected to the track which is another area of strength for Mercury State; it's completely utterly relatable. All throughout the record there are no moments of outlandishness or inspired inventiveness, there's a constant warm and welcoming sense of familiarity which lends itself to the mood, atmosphere, and feel of the songs which, in turn, elevate them to their fullest potential. It's brilliantly constructed and awfully complete for the bare-minimum set-up Pearson and Platt were working with.

Though Mercury State's mid-section helps establish the identity of both the record and the artist (while retaining an important sense of variety), it does lose the record's pace a little and acts as the only real hindrance there is to be found on the record. While the songs are still consistently compelling, they don't add too much to the record outside of acting as a bridge for the first and last acts of Mercury State. However, they each offer some memorable moments internally, whether it be the piano and organ over the chorus/post-chorus sections of "All Is Not Lost" or the beautifully arranged electric guitar adornment on "Rat Race", which is easily the best of the three and keeps Mercury State from going too far off the rails.

The uptempo stomper "Medication" kick-starts some fire back into Mercury State and Pearson sets himself up for a thrilling finish. That thrilling finish never really comes, with "Old Friends" acting as perhaps the most representative track on Mercury State. It's an odd sequencing choice after the relative ferocity of "Medication" but it acts as a beautiful bridge between that song and the brief but gorgeous closing song, "Lights". "Lights" is Mercury State's final indicator that Pearson is undoubtedly capable of crafting a classic record but Mercury State only manages to come admirably close to that status. However, it's a strong enough showing to suggest that we probably won't have too wait too long for that to happen.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image