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John Daly Band, Miscellaneous Singles

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Published September 28, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


John Daly Band, Miscellaneous Singles - COURTESY
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  • John Daly Band, Miscellaneous Singles

(Self-released, CD)

In the modern era, what constitutes an album release can be a little confusing. The death of the LP has been massively exaggerated — artists from Beyoncé to local pop-punk acts are still producing well-crafted, full-length albums — but there's no doubt that the single is king.

In reviewing the latest music by Richmond's John Daly Band, I've come up against the fact that they haven't put out a proper record since their eponymous 2014 debut. Over the last few years, they've sprinkled singles, which could, collectively, form a five-song EP — except that, technically speaking, they don't. In fact, the only confirmation that the songs even belong together came from singer-songwriter and front person Daly.

"I mean, sure," he said, when I asked if the new singles were an EP of sorts. "In other times, these songs would have definitely been on the same record. But that's just not really how the industry works anymore. Singles just seem to perform better with streaming."

So, no cool cover or cheeky liner notes, just five songs featuring Daly's idiosyncratic, no-frills songwriting. Even without the trappings of an album, "Chess on Ice," "Origami," "Clear," "Fresh Socks" and "Be Together" share distinctive DNA that nonetheless binds them into an engaging collection of pop-leaning acoustic rock.

As a songwriter, Daly is cast from the mold of late-'70s troubadours and honed by his '90s upbringing. His compositions brim with melodies and clever hooks, woven through an almost West Coast folk lens, landing somewhere between Townes Van Zandt and Pavement.

"Be Together" displays the tools Daly employs most often in his work. A gritty, acoustic guitar-driven soft rocker, the tune features philosophical lyrics — "One day, we'll be right where we are / One day, we'll be / Imagine that" — awash in gorgeous harmonies. The song nods to the band's live show as well, featuring a rocking outro with a solo from guitarist Dennis Derryberry.

"Chess on Ice" shows the band at its strongest. Daly uses the title refrain like a mantra as he laments his difficulty being emotionally open. The vocal interplay between Daly and Derryberry is a highlight, but there's a real earworm hiding in this folk rocker. Drummer Matt DeLuca expertly keeps the beat going here and throughout the pseudo collection. His playing drives songs like "Clear" and "Fresh Socks" with solid, in-the-pocket taste.

Daly has a knack for writing songs that initially feel traditional and straightforward but under scrutiny reveal a sophisticated center. A farmer and piano tuner by trade, he is that archetypal musician armed with bags of skill who seems far more interested in applying those gifts to composition rather than to instrumental pyrotechnics.

The John Daly Band's latest EP — whether or not it's packaged as such — is a cohesive collection of clever tunes that shows a band moving closer and closer to something special. Stream the songs on Spotify.