It’s very easy to sit here as a journalist and place labels on things. There are a few that easily spring to mind when tackling Jackson Phillips’ (AKA Day Wave) debut LP The Days We Had. A few damn well leap out; dream-pop, sunshine sound, emotional and honest, plus a myriad of versions of the previous four. But sometimes you need to remove yourself from the moment and see the larger picture, it seems to us that The Days We Had is just one corner piece of this puzzle.
Jackson Phillips has been making music for a long time, the Oakland based musician came to our attention in 2014 when his dream-pop (see?) captured our imaginations and made us a little queasy with idea of butterfly sunshine, and candy floss love. It felt like a first date in many a confusing way. Phillip’s displayed on several occasions with tracks such as ‘Drag’, ‘Total Zombie’ and ‘Come Home Now’ his incredible ability to write piercing hooks and simplistic, heartfelt pop songs. They all felt like love letters ‘To Jackson, From Jackson’. There was something special in the simplicity, but this debut LP, released via Fiction Records and out now, was his next big step.
On the first listening of the new album you can easily fall into a trap of dismissal by the sheer definitiveness of Day Wave’s sound. It is purely indie pop. No ifs and no buts. There is no ‘garage inspired’ or ‘electro-nuanced’ tracks – the album from ‘Something Here’ to ‘I’m Still Here’ (the first and last track respectively) is direct and unabashed. The lo-fi aesthetic of previous efforts (namely Headcase EP) is still firmly there, Phillips’ hazy vocal is a permanent and welcomed feature of every track and that lack of difference may put many off.
The themes of the songs haven’t changed very much from the previous EPs either, there is still a love interest, there is still a shit ton of self-doubt and reflection, but what many people will miss is that this is a good thing. Too many times an artist will get far above their station, dabbling in politics or self-referential lyricism, and when it is a fairly small-time band it becomes pedantic and frankly irritating. I don’t know about you but I’m happy to have my musicians and artist fight and give a voice to the many etc. etc., but what I really want is for them to make enjoyable music. Day Wave does that.
From the almost entirely instrumental ‘Bloom’, which is far more experimental than we may expect from Jackson, to the infallible pop hit ‘Bring You Down’ and the instantly foot-tapping ‘Promises’ the vibe of the album is there for all to see. A fairly simple pop structure with a crafted nuance and a sunshine sound (see?) sewn throughout. But what the album lacks in a perceived variance it makes up for in an undeniable atmosphere. Day Wave has never been designed to make you riotous or feel indelibly sad, the project has always seemed, to us at least, to be an honest artist producing music that he would want to listen to. Can you really argue with that? We won’t.
But what we will argue with is that this is Day Wave’s crescendo. The album feels as though it may not be the golden nugget, with a smorgasbord of different sounds and saleable tracks, everyone was hoping for but instead it is a large granite stepping stone.
Stable, sturdy, smooth and familiar. Jackson Phillips can write a damn fine pop tune and based on this latest effort he should be allowed to write as many as he and we want.