D.K. Lyons – The Past (Romanticized) – Album Review
Much credit to whomever wrote up the press release for the debut record by D.K. Lyons – the write-up alone had me very interested as to what I might find once I pushed play on The Past (Romanticized). And then, once I did, I went back to read it all over again, and realized just how pinpoint accurate it was; I know you can’t see all these details from your side of the screen, but rest assured, I know what I’m looking at. You could immediately tell there’s a ton of heart & soul invested in the songs on this record.
For what it’s worth, you can instantly hear it too. As the smooth Police-esque rhythm & groove started up to fuel the vocal melodies the main star of the show would go on to provide in the opening track “The Getaway,” you can hear the sincerity & emotion required to make music connect in the tone of D.K.’s voice without question. Add in the excellent songwriting you’ll find on this song, the impeccable musicianship that it comes with, and absolutely essential & perfect backup vocals alongside D.K.’s lead, and the hooks that flash from the music to the microphone, The Past (Romanticized) starts out on entirely solid ground. Hard to say really what makes the biggest impression overall…and that speaks to the strength in the complete song as a whole; chances are for most I think it’s undoubtedly going to be the shiny sound in the guitars that drive the sparkle in the music, or the vocal melodies & hooks that are right there on the surface throughout the verse & chorus, impossible to miss. For me…I probably honestly lean just a little towards the way the harmonies & backup vocals contribute to this first cut by just a slight margin…but believe me, I’m definitely not complaining about a single thing here – “The Getaway” is an excellent start to The Past (Romanticized) that pumps out a great first impression. You get that free-flowing feeling throughout the glide through “The Getaway” – you wanna go wherever D.K. is heading with the top down & the music up as you break away from the past & head into the future. There’s even a twinge of Country vibes that come through the backup vocals, harmonies, and hooks – & where I might usually turn away from such a sound – they brought me right in with their performance.
Lyons cranks up the Pop-inspiration to drive the momentum forward with the upbeat sound of “Shades Of Amber” and its highly addictive chorus. Don’t get me wrong – I think D.K. did a great job right off the bat in the way he sang “The Getaway” as the record began, but I think anyone would come to the same conclusion that my ears did with this second cut – you can hear the magic come alive in him as he sings “Shades Of Amber” without question. As much as I’d love to argue it comes down to being a better song with stronger hooks, I don’t know that I feel that way at all really…”The Getaway” is a great tune for entirely different reasons…”Shades Of Amber” likely amps up the degree of accessibility through D.K.’s inspired performance and the up-tempo melody he’s rockin’ with. Thankfully, you don’t need to choose one or the other when it comes to The Past (Romanticized) and it’s likely unfair to compare these first two tracks to begin with…just enjoy’em folks. Lyons made this record for exactly that purpose, and its songs like “Shades Of Amber” that celebrate the colorful hybrid sound he’s creating in full bloom. I’m not the dancing type personally…but I recognize the energy that music has to have to induce that level of connection, and this song has it in spades. Many of you out there know I often use my wife as a second opinion to confirm I’m not crazy when it comes to the degree of appeal in a song – if she likes it, it’s pretty much guaranteed to catch everyone’s attention. I haven’t played “Shades Of Amber” for her yet, but I certainly will…I could confirm what I already know with a simple push of play – she’ll love everything about this song. So take that to heart dear readers, dear friends – this is a single-worthy cut.
So…I’ll admit…”Shades Of Amber” almost caught me off-guard in just how much I instantly grew attached to such a shiny & upbeat tune. I listen to the opening of a song like “Dance Like Shadows,” and I immediately think to myself, “yep…here it comes…this one’s for me.” I mean…listen to the sweetness & emotion in the guitars will ya? Or how about how well-suited the sincerity of D.K. is for this kind of low-key vibe? What about the pure heart you’ll hear in the words and the execution of the chorus? I’m comfortable with revealing I was hesitant about a song called “Dance Like Shadows” in having my aforementioned aversion to dancing in any context…but once I heard how this whole melody snapped right into place, I was more than convinced that Lyons would hit another solid homerun here, which he did. There’s a large part of me that would advocate on behalf of the hooks in the chorus of “Dance Like Shadows” being the strongest you’ll hear on the record to this point, revealed in the most subtle & organic of ways…but again, it would be extremely difficult to choose. I think even by song three, what you have to really admire & appreciate in this whole record is the stunning approach to the craft overall – D.K. isn’t overlooking a single aspect of his debut album, and he’s got songs like “Dance Like Shadows” shining bright with the light of a melody that connects straight to the heartstrings of everyone listening. There’s beautiful perspective in the lyrics, imagery, and sentiment that a ton of people will truly adore – & bonus points once again for just how wonderfully the backup vocals strengthen this song so perfectly.
It’s like he can’t lose. If you’re not enticed by those guitar hooks at the beginning of “Sleep With The Lights On,” then like…I mean…do you even listen with your ears bruh? Here’s what I’ll concede when it comes to this fourth track…and nothing more – there is a more dated sound at work here…perhaps. Ultimately I can recognize the fact that a song like “Sleep With The Lights On” would have been a huge hit in the late 80’s – but I think those out there that have enjoyed how that whole Pop-inspired sincerity has transformed & morphed into what we know as ‘Indie’ music in our oh-so-modern era will fully dig on this track as well. Plus, I think it’d be a different thing altogether if D.K. were in any way trying to hide or disguise this song’s style & sound for anything else other than what it is, which he’s not; he’s embraced this vibe with the confidence & professionalism he’s taken to every other song and delivers another noteworthy performance. If you ask me, I think sincerity is something that’ll always find an audience…the fact that Lyons is so entrenched in what might sound like a style from the past is every bit the proof that he still loves & respects the roots of those that have paved the way for him to exist today. A song like “Sleep With The Lights On” isn’t all that far removed from other successful hybrid-Pop/Rock acts like Black Lab or Keane…at the end of the day, it’s catchy, it’s memorable, and it’s bound to make an impression on listeners one way or the other. Moments like around the 2:35 mark where you get to appreciate the radiant & rhythmic musicianship in this cut through the solo instrumentation give this cut another advantage…not like it really needs one…I think the hooks of this track are guaranteed to sink in.
Sounds like we’ve got a banjo in the mix in the love-laced “Perfume” – I dig it. In terms of D.K.’s own multi-faceted style, you hear him challenge the boundaries once again with the way this song morphs from verse to chorus – and what a magical moment that truly becomes, lemme tell ya. It’s a genuine case of feeling like you were already fully satisfied with the welcoming sound of the music and the storyline that Lyons weaves into the fabric of the first verse you’ll hear…but when you end up uncovering the absolutely stunning hooks he surges into with the chorus, this cut goes from good to great in an instant. You really feel that connection to the energy and the moment here – and as a result, I think you get one of Lyons’ best performances that you’ll find on this record in the heart of “Perfume.” Definitely one of my favorite transitions to say the very least, you really hear D.K. deliver a captivating hook to its maximum potential here…he knows the material extremely well and exactly when to enhance the sparkle in the melody as “Perfume” shifts from verse to chorus. The line “can’t miss what you never had” will tip you towards the range of up/down emotions & experiences of love that are scattered throughout the lyrics of this song…and the title itself I’d imagine is intended as a metaphor for the fact that these feelings we share with those we love, even for a moment, can linger in the air for a lifetime afterwards. All-around, it’s a great comparison to the trials & tribulations of love and how sense memory plays a significant role in how we remember our experiences and lock our most important moments into our being. I ain’t gonna lie, I think there’s almost always a risk to using the word ‘smells’ in any capacity outside of Teen Spirit…but this might be the other exception given the context that comes along with it. I’m rambling I know, but it’s songs like “Perfume” that have you appreciating the writing and the way a person’s mind would interpret this story for themselves, in addition to the way you perceive it yourself. For as different as the two main parts of this song really are in structure & sound as well, it’s actually quite remarkable to have pulled off results that come out this 100% cohesive.
When considering the flow the of the record and the extreme degree of accessible & appealing sound we’ve experienced so far, “Run To Me” is likely where the momentum could shift for Lyons when it comes to listeners out there. First of all, let’s not forget this is a debut record; and as I’ve said before and will always point out, I think it would be a miserable artistic existence to not have the opportunity to continue to grow from those first steps outta the gate. Secondly, give this man the credit he sincerely deserves – he’s inarguably cracked the bat with homeruns throughout the five cuts that start up The Past (Romanticized)…and I’m not even here to argue that “Run To Me” doesn’t deserve a massive amount of credit too for being a great song – because it IS. The question becomes…is it quite up to the standards set in the first five cuts on this record…and I think the debate in the court of public opinion could very well be divided on that. I’d liken this to anyone out there familiar with the journey of the song “Red” by Treble Charger in many ways…it showed its promise and potential on their early NC17 album, but recorded later on for the lineup on Maybe It’s Me, it not only smoothed out through better production, time, and experience, but it also made a better fit into that particular lineup of songs. Part of me is inclined to feel like there’s a better version of “Run To Me” to come in the future…or that in a live setting this song might find that spark it needs to possess that same magic you find in the first five cuts from The Past (Romanticized), but without question, the fundamentals are there. It’s kind of like the moodier cousin to Dave Mathews Band’s “Crash” in the chorus, with an artistic/alt spin on the verses that nearly sound like a mellower version of Placebo…so you see what I’m saying here, hybrid ideas on display once again and a large ambitions at work here. For the most part, I think Lyons still does well here and that the sincerity of the song will carry him to victory, eventually; “Run To Me” might not be the first cut listeners come away talking about from this album, but the songwriting is still top shelf for sure. Guitar solo on-point, backing vocals as incredible as ever…still lots for your ears here.
I dig that “Feels Like Flying” restores a bit of the spark back into the energy of the record through both its tempo & production. Overall, I’ve got no real complaints…decent tune and executed with the professionalism that D.K. has approached his entire album with, no question about that. I suppose it becomes tough to not compare these last couple cuts with the first five in the set…”Feels Like Flying” feels like it flies closer to that same sparkle & shine, or just slightly short. You’re welcome to blame me & my ears if you like, I’m just tellin’ ya what they hear, and again, this all speaks to the remarkable strength of the way this album begins – so blame D.K., not me! What I do really like about this cut is the vocal melody’s progression as it starts into the chorus and comes out soaring at the end; it might be an intentional part of the design, or the genuine result of going where the music takes you – either way, between the lead & backup vocals and the harmonies you’ll find there, “Feels Like Flying” still has plenty of tangible allure & appeal to its main hooks that are bound to pull in its fair share of listeners out there.
There’s a run of like…mid-90s sound in this record that you’ll find runs through the middle of The Past (Romanticized) that you could compare to bands like Toad The Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms & such; and I’d argue that “Long Way Home” explores that vein through tones that recall Goo Goo Dolls massive hit “Name.” While the main structure & parts of each song are entirely different, you’ll hear the similarities in the tone & approach to the production…which is a good thing of course, you don’t wanna borrow too much, and there’s still plenty of uniqueness here. The clarity in the guitars comes out sounding fantastic as well…kind of like a subtle Jars Of Clay-esque approach here, to toss in one more 90’s reference for ya. Personally I think it’s the strongest cut outside of the first five and that you get a ton of insight into the man behind the music in the words of this song. There’s also a really awesome layer in there…probably a soft synth-piano of some kind or a keyboard melody of some sort enhancing the melody in the music, and it’s freakin’ brilliant. “Long Way Home” dives deep into the themes of change and pursuing your dreams…how even when you might be taking the right steps forward, the journey to get there is hard. I mean, look…I don’t think “Long Way Home” is going to automatically be the number-one choice for the fan-favorite from this record, but I sure hope it gets its proper credit in the end after everyone’s had a chance to fully absorb this album. There’s real depth on display here…authentic sincerity…solid hooks, and a ton of beauty & heart in D.K.’s words & vocals as he sings “Long Way Home” – that works for me.
Not sure entirely what I make of “Polaroid” I suppose. Close I can get to any kind of comparison here would likely be in the peppier tunes by Fountains Of Wayne and the clever mix of playful energy & lyricism that band had. I’ll say this…I’m not opposed to writing a song for the sake of writing a song – but I think when you compare the connection you’ll find from D.K. to his material in cuts like “Dance Like Shadows” or “Perfume” or even “Run To Me” reveal more of his own genuine interest. Nothing wrong with rockin’ out for a moment or two if that’s what ya wanna do though, and I certainly ain’t one to stop him – “Polaroid” amps up the energy and supplies a sunshine vibe to your speakers. Again, in the context of a debut record and the future being so wide-open for D.K. Lyons with how much potential he’s flashed throughout this whole album, he’ll undoubtedly come to face some major decisions up next as he heads towards the next phase of his career. He could go the route of “Polaroid” and generate undeniable bar-band fun that’s guaranteed to get a crowd moving…or he could stick with the deeper cuts he’s examined on this record that have a much higher degree of personal attachment to them. What direction he chooses, which way he goes from here is anyone’s guess right now this early on, but if you’re asking me, I’m always going to advocate on behalf of the songs where I can hear more of D.K. in the music D.K. is making, you feel me? Maybe “Polaroid” is too easy for me to like…or maybe it’s just such a colorful & celebratory sound that my Grunge roots are flaring up…Lyons still makes it work well.
OKAY! There we go! That’s the spark I want to hear right there is exactly what that is – “Danger” immediately puts the personality of the music straight into the spotlight – and in my opinion, competes at a strength that easily rivals those first songs on The Past (Romanticized). Yep…I’d be much more apt to describe this cut quickly in a case of ‘what’s not to love?’ rather than list its numerous highlights and the massive amount of reasons it’ll appeal to you. Suffice it to say things are fully back on track here and that captivating charisma that D.K. Lyons is so clearly capable of is right where ya want to find it again. Definitely built on its strengths of Pop/Rock sound, there’s no doubt that Lyons has got this shined up to big-big commercial success potential and once again adorned with single worthy hooks. Largely about that moment just prior to embarking into an exciting new chapter of life – “Danger” speaks on behalf of how truly worth it it is to take the plunge and go after your dreams full-force, whatever they may be. Whether that’s life or love…the anticipation of the excitement that comes with “Danger” is what you’ll find drives the core themes of this cut, and I’d suspect the clever structure of the song and how it expands is yet another audible cue that Lyons supplies that tells ya he really feels & means what he’s singing about. This whole record has pieces of what has made him the man & artist he is today throughout its lineup of songs – and I think many people out there will love the sentiment he’s expressing here. We should all love “Danger” in a world according to D.K.’s definition is what I’m sayin!’
The glide into “Dark Dreams” is spectacularly smooth, and reveals yet another dimension of the versatile sound you’ll find in this artist’s debut record. This…stands a really good chance of being one of my favorite cuts on this album for sure…I think the instrumentation and sound-selection is freakin’ superb, straight-up. The acoustic rhythm guitars are excellent, the lead creeping into the mix is equally awesome in the distance…there are strings of some kind I believe as well, cello perhaps…could be violin, maybe both – but this is…without a doubt a track I’d be taking a hard look at if I was Lyons, he’s nailed this one tightly. The amount of solid tone in his voice as he sings this melody is measurable – you can hear this is right in the sweet-spot for his vocals, and you get a performance from him that fully reflects that; this is a very well-suited sound & vibe for him. I dig the dusty nearly-Oasis territory that the verses of this song treads towards at first, and by the time D.K. hit the chorus, it felt like we were back into the realm of Pop-inspired/Indie sound akin to Fountains Of Wayne, except for it’s the half of the band’s sound that I really connected with personally this time. “Dark Dreams” moves at a captivating pace and has you hanging on to every word, tone, note, and expression along the way…it’s another excellent example of a song I wouldn’t dream of changing & a noteworthy example of D.K.’s use of lyrical contrast in tandem with the sound of the song. It all fits right from the way this song slides dreamily & hazily into its first verse, right through the magic of the sweetness in the chorus, to the final notes ringing out – I felt like “Dark Dreams” was downright enchanting when it comes right down to it…definitely a highlight.
The Past (Romanticized) ends strongly with the up-tempo vibes of “American Slang” leading the way to bright crisp chords and bold melodic vocals. When D.K.’s locked right into the magic of the moment, it’s something you’ve been able to hear every time – and this last cut “American Slang” has him finishing off his debut with a highly focused & flawless performance that gives this album the finale it deserved. Even though the range of emotions on display throughout this song & record all feature their own ups & downs along the way – face facts…you’re hearing a fairly celebratory sound at this end of this album with “American Slang” – an energy & aura that’s completely justified in my opinion. Having this record as your debut…as your starting point…I mean…are you kidding me? The world is D.K.’s oyster dear readers, dear friends…he’s got wild potential, remarkable talent, and a whole future in front of him now that he’s found the place where he truly belongs, making music. “American Slang” shines with Indie/Rock sweetness and really brings the sincerity that pulled us in at the beginning right back into the spotlight in a firm reminder of what’s had us loving his music all along from the get-go. Somewhere in the middle of Canada’s Mathew Good and Jimmy Eat World, you’ll find “American Slang” hits that perfect balance of songwriting that has meaning with sound that generates that magical connection. You feel the music of D.K. Lyons…and that’s because you know he’s feeling it too – The Past (Romanticized) was an important step to take and a noteworthy debut that’s got him completely on my radar now – and absolutely looking forward to where he’ll take his music next in The Future (To Follow).
Find out more about D.K. Lyons at the official homepage at: https://www.dklyonsmusic.com