Jason Daniels – Cinematic Dreams – Album Review
I’m rootin’ for this guy to succeed…it’s still early in Jason’s career by any measure, but there’s definitely something unique in the passion that this guy has for making music that you can certainly hear. Seems like Daniels is a good dude with great intentions & ambitions…and I dig that; he’s donating part of the proceeds from the sale of his album Cinematic Dreams to the Treehouse charity and after a thorough listen to the record, I’d imagine he’s got more than enough chance to sell enough copies to make a difference. Equally cool, is the fact that I think there’s enough diversity in sound, style, and ideas on this debut album of Jason’s to open a whole lot of doors for his music career in the years to follow. Still room to evolve, expand, and grow even further – but every artist out there in the world should hope the same could be said for them, no matter where they’re at in their own careers…bottom line with someone like Jason is that you can audibly hear the want, desire, passion, ideas, & drive is clearly there.
We’ll get to the surprises in a minute or two here, believe me. As it begins, Cinematic Dreams likely reveals the sound you might expect or associate with the name or look of Jason Daniels – there’s just something about “Something For You” that seems to really make sense and suit him very well. And in saying that, I’m largely talking about the first two minutes of the song…beyond that mark, he’ll exceed any expectations or blow-up any assumptions you might have – & I think he actually gives us a glimpse at the stunning & remarkable potential he has in full bloom. Sometimes a repeated line can be the perfect addition, sometimes it can be an anchor’s worth of weight pulling down a whole song – in this particular case when it comes to “Something For You,” it’s damn near like Jason stops time; he creates a seriously magical moment at the end of this first song & immediately serves up a memorable highlight. I like the mix of what Jason brings to his approach…like if you listen to the way he paces & phrases his words throughout the verses and how the chorus provides the smoothness in the flow you’d want – you’ll find the art of the craft in a lot of what Daniels displays throughout this set list. BIG UPS for leaving us on an extraordinary moment in time and a fantastic first impression throughout the hooks & strength in this song’s second-life in its final ninety-seconds – “Something For You” starts Jason out on impressively solid ground and hints at the versatility you’ll find throughout this entire record to follow.
OKAY. So. I’m gonna be completely fair here and recognize right off the bat that singing “Time” would likely shred most people’s vocal chords into pieces – the combination of tone, power, and edge he’s looking for…is pretty much the stuff of legends. The writing requires a superhuman performance to pull off – and to his credit, there’s a lot of good in that scenario…I think for what it’s worth, Jason holds his own strongly for the most part without question when it comes to the demands of the chorus. In general, just from a songwriting standpoint, sometimes you just write a killer part musically or vocally that’s just slightly beyond your reach or capabilities; I have every reason that Jason will conquer this mountain with more & more ease as “Time” goes on. As it stands right now, there’s no doubt you can hear it in the track that the chorus is giving him the business and he’s doing his best to stick with it and not cough up an entire lung right there in the studio booth…so like I said, give the man some credit, because tone-wise, he gets there, there are no organs being coughed onto the studio floor, but you can hear the fluctuation in the energy he summons if you’re listening closely…which means that he can hear it too. Having said all that…I think there’s something really rad that happens between what’s clearly a man putting ALL his passion into the music on a song that’s about not waiting for the moment and going after it with EVERYTHING you got, know what I mean? It’s like the spirit of Rock consumes the guy here and pushes him towards every extreme & limit he has, sounding like he’s fully spent by the end of “Time” with a solo that fires around recklessly and dismantles the final moments of this second track.
Like, you didn’t see “iPro” coming. NO YOU DID NOT – and don’t try to convince me otherwise either. After what you hear in “Something For You” and “Time,” don’t even pretend that Jason had hinted he was gonna take a trip over to Hip-Hop grand-central and start layin’ down some bars – “iPro” is right outta left field yo! Like LISTEN to how wild this gets on a musical-level in the percussion solo around the three-minute mark! Or check out the excellent whispered verse & deadly bass combo to follow – equally cool for essentially the completely opposite reasons as Jason dials back the amount of sound, shifting gears, moods, & atmospheres throughout the adventurous six minute-plus length of “iPro.” Ambitious tune…covers a lot of ground in between Hip-Hop & Rock…as to whether or not he does one better or the other, I think that’ll be an individual thang for the people out there to decide as they listen. Singing-wise, I think you get an exceptional performance from Jason that raises the stakes for our expectations for this guy…stuff right around the two-minute mark; you can hear he’d probably rock a killer cover of a Linkin Park tune from the Chester Bennington side of the mic – excellent tone in the vocals from Daniels on “iPro.” I’m probably a bit more on the fence about the Hip-Hop-inspired bars, but I salute him for usin’em all the same; I think you’ll find a ton of creativity in sound & style roaming throughout “iPro” that’ll go straight from Alternative to Rap, Progressive, Rock, & more in between. At nearly seven minutes in total, this song is several meals for your ears to digest…but there’s no doubt he’s flexing a ton of innovation & imagination within this one tune that’ll keep ya plenty entertained. Love the way this tune opens up with such a mystical sound too…that’s the beauty of Cinematic Dreams in action right there for ya all on its own; and from there on, I think you’ll admire the way that Jason’s combined some seriously soulful sounds on the mic in addition to genuinely catchy fun in equal doses. It’s ambitious, it dives deep into the art of creativity in music through its malleable movement and clever moments that he’s written into “iPro” – and he’s got a pretty wild tale all-in-all with a conclusive ending.
Heading back to the Rock-based roots, “Down The Road” stays subtle but carries a true grit to the writing, vocals, and overall sound. Structurally speaking, Jason’s a seriously impressive cat, straight-up, full-stop. I’ll admit, I haven’t always felt like everything timing-wise has always 100% lined-up in a few of the wilder spots throughout this album, but when it comes right down to it, some of these ideas & moments are so spectacularly unexpected that it’s like a serious breath of fresh air from track to track that more than makes up for any slippage in that respect. Like LISTEN TO THE GOLD this man finds by mining this idea like it’s got a gemstone in it just waiting to be found…right around two-minutes in, “Down The Road” barges in with kind of an aggressive part but melodic sound, which quickly expands into what might be one of the most memorable hooks and parts of any song with the way he sings its ending. I’m not quite sure what the heck is up with the coincidence that occurs in his writing here, but let’s face facts – the two-minute mark of a song on Cinematic Dreams seems to be a magical & mythical moment in time where you’ll hear things often go from good to great for Jason Daniels. It’s an observation, not a criticism, that’s for sure – if he wants to keep creating these powerful transitions in sound, that’s more than fine with me. On that note…when I’m talking about the stunning ending of “Down The Road” I’m probably leaning more towards just past the two-minute mark around the 2:15-ish area; I do like the idea he’s got to bridge these two moments in time on this song, but that is definitely a little on the jarring-side of powerful as he rips into it and changes the directions & dynamics completely. I also really dig the first half for its dusty-storyteller seen-it-all wisdom that you hear in his voice and in the details/imagery throughout the lyrics…don’t get me wrong, I dig that second half and it’s the highlight for me for sure, but he started out on completely solid ground to begin with. Could that transition be a bit smoother between these parts? Perhaps. It’s still a good moment of its own within the song, I’d probably bring the volume on it down just a touch or two, given that the power in the switch itself is going to always provide that punch & impact of change he’s looking to supply on “Down The Road.” No need to split too many hairs though, “Down The Road” is a strong tune for him for sure.
See what I’m saying? Or hear it, I mean? Daniels switches it up once again to a piano-led melody to fuel the music of “Come Be Mine” – yet another style, sound, and approach of its own within the set. I think the piano is perfection, I think the vocals reveal a ton of tone and bold sound right when its needed most; let’s face facts, he’s got a piano with him here, but other than that, Jason’s out on his own in the spotlight. Aside from maybe a run-through or two perhaps more than necessary at the very end, I think he holds the fort down on this track really well, and like I was sayin,’ “Come Be Mine” might be the song that rests solely on his shoulders more than any other from the set. I’ll say this…there’s a ton of positives about “Come Be Mine” and I think this guy gives everything he’s got to the vocals here – and I like that…I like that he’s also switched up the vibe so impressively yet again…the piano works wonders for him and gives him a stunning platform to sing from. Lyrically…on “Come Be Mine” and a few other cuts on this record, I feel like I’m looking for a bit of that diversity you’ll find in his sound to come out in the words as well. As it stands, he writes a great song, don’t get me wrong – “Come Be Mine” is damn near what you’d call textbook songwriting and essentially bulletproof…songwriter’s-songwriter stuff – and if that’s what he wants to be, then great, have at it hoss, no objections here. My argument against going down that road is that disconnect we can feel occur at times when something sounds like it’s being written more than genuinely felt or derived from personal experience, if that makes any sense. Kind of like the Bryan Adams-effect if you will, where you can hear the craft more than the connection. But for real…someone ask Bryan’s separate bank account for a song like “Everything I Do” and ask it how it’s doing…I’m sure you’ll find it’s plenty full. In a similar way to a track like that from Adams, I think songs like “Come Be Mine” come along with a similar epicness & majesty to the overall atmosphere; completely different songs of course, but that same commitment to the craft is right there on display. Wonderfully pushing this track even further towards the artistic side, is the stunning video that’s supporting it, which adds even more heart to this song through the visuals onscreen provided by Glen Keane’s Duet Animation – I mean…we’re talking seriously beautiful stuff when you factor in everything from the vibe to the visuals combined together. Honestly…joining forces in their art here was a magnificent choice on both of their behalves…the music suits the video and vice versa just as strongly…it’s powerfully moving & it’s award-worthy level of amazing my friends, for real. Take a look & a listen to “Come Be Mine” and experience this for yourself below!
The real cohesion between the songs on Cinematic Dreams comes through the diversity of the material & sound for sure. So on one hand, you’ve got an album that can house a piano ballad like “Come Be Mine,” a rager like “Time,” or the electronically-infused atmosphere of a song like “Love For You” and largely because of the range of ideas and styles of music we hear, by like, song three, you already know to expect the unexpected. And I think people will dig the range of sound in Jason’s music in addition to keeping the door wide open for whatever he wants to create in the future with as much creative-freedom as an artist can potentially enjoy. If you’ve already been everywhere once, your fan-base is more than happy to come along with you in the future as you roam through styles & sound in search of something new, from record to record, single to single – and that’ll likely be the case for Daniels. “Love For You” is uniquely loose in how the song uses space & structure, while still providing a ton of textured sounds and powerful vocals to listen to. There’s a lot riding on his shoulders on this song as well when it comes to the melody and what keeps us listening from moment to moment…and really Daniels comes out sounding quite huge here with noteworthy results. The power & tone are there for sure…it’s definitely another highlight for him on the mic for sure; mix-wise, I think he’s got enough juice here to bring the music up around him a lil’ bit or his vocals down slightly, which might help the overall strength of the song coming through your speakers. But that’s nit-pickin’ – the man’s done well on “Love For You” & created another innovative idea-within-an-idea-within-an-idea for your ears to willingly absorb. I admire the courage and confidence he’s got in never shying away from a huge moment for his vocals, and he creates plenty of massive ones throughout this song; his tone in the most subtle moments are filled with great tone in his voice & a hint of mystery – and the space in between these two extremes is actually fairly monumental when it comes right down to it…almost like two separate parts of his own personality on display for us all to hear. Even kind of reminds me a lil’ bit of the dude from Placebo here as the song begins…and the spare atmosphere surrounding him gives off that same kind of eerie-but-enticing sound you know is going to expand into something even more spine tingling. I felt like the payoff was definitely there on “Love For You” – it’s an interesting turn into a more minimalistic sound, but it’s like no one told that to Jason, who bravely goes after some seriously gigantic notes on this tune.
I cited Chester from LP earlier on and Placebo-dude just now…but listen to Jason’s vocals on “Lead The Great” and even though he’s keepin’ the vibe controlled & smooth to best serve the song, you can also hear similarities to singers like Scott Weiland or even Kurt Cobain in his voice as well. He takes a sharp turn towards the poetic angle in the verse of “Lead The Great” – and there’s value in that for many people out there listening. Will they likely latch more quickly onto the hooks to follow in the chorus? For sure, but hey, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. To me, even though a song like “Lead The Great” might come out a bit more unevenly matched between the strengths of its appeal in the song’s two main parts, I’d still argue that there’s more of a expressive style & genuine connection between Jason and his words here than on something perhaps more crafted in that songwriter’s style like “Come Be Mine” beforehand. Best way I can probably put it is that the verses of “Lead The Great” sound like something he’s truly interested in doing as opposed to something he knows he can do really well, know what I mean? Not just the craft on display in “Lead The Great,” but that creative connection to the material that has Jason sounding fully invested…you can tell he’s not just looking to do what’s been done, but to push the art of music further however he can contribute. Whether it completely works for everyone, I’d imagine it’ll be the same for all artists that seek out doing something unique, which is hit or miss a lot of the time when it comes to music, but integrity & respect become paramount. I mean, shit, it should ALWAYS be paramount, but you get the idea…it’s about the courage to challenge the art & what we already know in music…and while he’s also shown he’s completely capable of the commercial hooks & all that, I think the artistic needs, desires, and talents of Jason’s style call out for him to keep doing what he loves most, which is clearly packin’ in a whole ton of ideas & sounds for ya to hear. Over time on repeat, I found more & more value to his verses on “Lead The Great” and relied much less on the hooks of the chorus to guide me through this tune, because ultimately you know the chorus is kind of a part that Jason is capable of cookin’ up all day long every day if he wanted to, but that verse is challenging & unique in that way you know he’s specifically looking to change the game in music up creatively.
Gettin’ his Indie-Rock on at the end of the record with “Heck Yeah,” infusing it with a vibrant electro atmosphere to fuel different parts along the way as Jason shifts between verse/chorus of this final cut; or that is…like…you know, one of the choruses…or hooks…of which, there are many. In many ways, “Heck Yeah” is kind of the summation of the artist at large with how much he’s incorporated into this one cut…it’s about five song’s worth of ideas or more in this last tune. It makes for a cut that’ll likely have a highlight moment or two for everyone out there listening, but also be one of those tracks where you’ll actually be able to pick out your specific favorite moments from too along the way, know what I mean? But like, LISTEN to that incredible rumble and immediate pull through the way “Heck Yeah” starts with such gripping sound comin’ at ya! Call it Alternative, call it Indie, call it whatever you like – that’s killer right there is what that is. Personally, I get a lot out of this entire tune…I think lyrically he’s got some of his best moments on “Heck Yeah” for sure…I think it’s got a bit of that like…Edwin McCain-like “Rockabye” kinda-vibes goin’ on at times with its combination of the spoken-word inclined parts, but for the better part of this final cut, I think Daniels really pushes himself artistically in the right ways here. There’s a live-wire vibe that runs through the energy & transitions of “Heck Yeah” that seriously sounds inspired…& I dig that 100%. Smart digital edits and cuts made into the production to give this last tune a few additional dynamics (As IF Daniels somehow needed MORE right?) – and the dude takes the title of his tune for a Grunge-inspired breakdown towards the end as well before surging back into the insatiably catchy Indie/Pop/Rock combination of sound once more to exit out of Cinematic Dreams.
The man is off to a great start for sure and sounds like he could virtually take his music anywhere he likes from here! Find out more about Jason Daniels and his album Cinematic Dreams at his official website at: http://www.jasondaniels.com
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