This article was first published on Louder Than War on 30 November 2012.
Daniel Pearson – Mercury State (Saint in the City Records)
DL / CD
Considered and mature observations on the sophomore album from singer-songwriter Daniel Pearson.
Things aren’t great for lots of people right now, these times they are a hard. And on his second album, Mercury State, Daniel Pearson has captured that struggle for posterity.
He’s documented modern life and found it is, as we’ve all been told, quite rubbish. His observational lyrics describe without comment, a troubadour one step removed from the tales that he tells. It sets out a bleak staging for the skilful indie folk melodies and twangs of Americana woven through the record.
Opener Factory Floor is typical of Mercury State. Lines about income support, unemployment and the associated material and emotional hardship to be endured. It does it without self-pity or dramatic overtone. It is, very simply, pure observation. The sort of songwriting associated with Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, Bruce Springsteen – Pearson has the ability if not the recognition his influences shared.
There is variation on the record though – from very folksy acoustic numbers to more bombastic Americana and even some highly polished and possibly slightly over-produced songs. It’s easy to imagine I Still Believe as the emotive backing music of an American teen drama, or perhaps to signify a characters inner turmoil and bring pathos to the likes of Scrubs. This is by no means a criticism, as someone who is rightly proud to own the Dawson’s Creek box set this sort of gentle, semi-acoustic soothing sing song is perfectly palatable if a little too smooth around the edges for some tastes.
At the other end of the spectrum and the edgier, richer sounds of tracks like Hard Times and Medication. The guitar isn’t ramped up to 11 but there are more layers of sound, a delicious fattening of the melody, providing an intriguing and enticing backdrop to the lyrics.
The latter song (Medication) segues perfectly back again into the delicate picking of Old Friends, a song with Norwegian Wood ghosting in the background, and more love in the lyric than longing.
This is a well-executed collection of glowing melodies; incisive and sad lyrics that reflect the poignancy of the everyday. A mature set that draws in musical influences to build a raging fire of songs to warm your heart on long winter nights. Well worth checking out.
All words by Sarah Lay.