You’re on a deadline. You’ve got a lot of work left, but you can’t do it in a vacuum; you need music that will help your brain keep turning without taking over the wheel. At times like that, you want a record that doesnt shake your world too much–something enjoyable but somewhat ignorable to serve as a healthy background for writing, train-riding, whatever. Gerard Daleys solo release, DiffRent States, is exactly what you’re wishing for.
Daley, who hails from Australia, has been a member of bands such as Delta House and The Stunt Car Drivers. Diff’Rent States is a collection of the solo songwriting he’s been doing on the side during his work with these other bands. His solo work is a homey brand of pop-rock with more acoustic guitar to it than genuine feeling. Its hard to pinpoint who Daley sounds like, except to say that he sounds a little like everyone. He has a quality voice to be certain–good tone and a warm depth that calls to mind backyard bonfires and broken hearts. But he lacks any definable quality to set his sound apart from that of other singers. If anyone, Daley sounds most like the singer from ’90s phenom Stroke 9, which had a few hits but is now generally absent from the music scene. Daleys songs also possess the same enjoyable beat but relative lyrical and rhythmic shallowness of Stroke 9. If this is the depth of Daleys talent, then perhaps he may be destined for a similar fate.
This is not to say that DiffRent States is without its good points. Daleys songs may not be ground-breaking, but they are certainly satisfying. At his best moments, he’s reminiscent of O.A.R. in its most flavorful backyard moments. Theres a tasty amount of acoustic guitar on most tracks, and his heavy, smoky voice lets you get lost a bit inside the music. Butchers Blocks is an enjoyable rock anthem that encourages random acts of chair dancing. Similarly, the title track has plenty of crunchy guitar and begs to be listened to over warm PBR with friends. Where Love is Found is a softer but still enjoyable track with some depth of feeling to it. Buildings starts with a quiet guitar before building and adding chimes, growing into a larger, movement-oriented rhythm.
The songs are primarily a manageable three to four minutes — little bite-sized, prepackaged acoustic-pop morsels. The Amazon version comes with five bonus tracks, one of which is an acoustic version of the title track. Of the others, Science Fiction Mind is alluringly off-key, if overly simple in lyrics. The best of the bonus songs is One Verse, a simple piece featuring more acoustic guitar with Daleys voice strongly in the forefront. This is the only song in which the lyrics make an impression. The world turns, sings Daley in a winningly earnest tone, I get some sleep at night/and Im so glad-I dont want to miss a thing.
Overall, it seems that perhaps Daleys biggest problem is a lack of solo experience. His songs are enjoyable and eminently listenable but simply not outstanding. There is nothing here that will make him memorable beyond the first couple listens. Diff’Rent States is a good choice for background music when your focus will be elsewhere, like when writing a term paper or throwing an outdoor party. It wont let you down, but its not going to be enough to keep you going either. Daley is a talented singer, but he should step up his game with deeper quality music if he wants to truly make his mark.