Grace Potter has had an eventful few years. After dissolving her long-time band the Nocturnals, she released a more pop-oriented solo record, Midnight, in 2015. Shortly after that, she divorced her husband and Nocturnals drummer, Matt Burr, and began a new relationship with Midnight producer Eric Valentine. Potter and Valentine welcomed their first child in 2018. All of these events serve as the background for the songs on Daylight.
The 11 songs that comprise Daylight see Potter continuing to drift away from the sound of her former band, but they don’t quite veer into the pop territory of her last record. Ultimately, the most successful songs on the record are the ones that bear a passing resemblance to her old work. The record begins in a somewhat scattered fashion. The first three songs, “Love Is Love”, “On My Way”, and “Back to Me”, are each completely different from each other and not necessarily Potter’s best work. The first track displays some of the pop of her last record, followed by a harder rock track and rounded out by the first appearance of the band Lucius, used later on the record to much better results. These three songs sound almost like leftovers that should have been added to the end of the record, not the beginning.
The feel of the album begins to turn with “Every Heartbeat”, a song that is not only a little more reminiscent of the traditional Grace Potter sound but just a better song than the first three. Then “IT” happens. The song that you always knew Grace Potter had in her and always hoped that she would write, the absolutely stunning “Release”. A slow piano ballad driven by perhaps the best vocal performance Potter has ever recorded. The bare, raw lyric mines the depth of her soul and opens her up in a way she has never done in the past. It’s the summation of a broken relationship and serves as a pivot not only to this record but probably to her career. It feels like the type of song that puts a period at the end of one chapter so the next could begin. That next chapter begins with the second half of Daylight.
As you begin to catch your breath after “Release”, you’re met with a run of songs that directly address her breakup. These are the most honest, open lyrics Potter has ever committed to record. They are accompanied by a perfect musical score that is reminiscent to, but certainly not a copy of, her Nocturnals work. This is the style that not only suits her voice and lyrics best but also where she sounds most comfortable. The songs aren’t forced; the music is a natural match to the lyrics. There were moments on Midnight where it seemed like Potter’s lyrics were forced into a pop soundtrack, not so on Daylight. It’s a much more organic production, Valentine is not trying to hammer the songs into a certain sound, there is room for them to breath and become what they need to be. The second half of the record features three more appearances by Lucius. Once again, these songs are stronger than “Back to Me”, so the voices in Lucius are used to truly enhance the song as opposed to just being layered on top.
Grace Potter has been on the doorstep of breaking huge for many years now. Time will show if Daylight is the record that ultimately breaks down that door. The scattered feel at the start of the record, and the decision to use some of those songs as the lead singles, may keep people from absorbing the full work, but ultimately this ends up being a strong album and a giant step forward.