Monday, June 01, 2009

Album Review: Daniel Merriweather - Love & War (3.5 / 5)

Australian singer, Daniel Merriweather finally puts out his long awaited commercial debut Love & War, following up to 2006s, The Fifth Season that failed to take off. Whilst Love & War leaves more to be desired, essentially it's a well crafted soul album, drawing in some 70s and 80s influences. Giving the album that extra push is Mark Ronson, who's produced hits for major British singers like Adele ("Cold Shoulder") and Amy Whinehouse ("Love Is A Losing Game," "You Know That I'm No Good" and "Back To Black"). He lends his producing talents on every track on the album.

Whilst Love & War is definately no Back to Black or show any signs of becoming the latter, it does conjure up a slick collection of mid-tempo grooves and uptempo numbers only sustaining a couple of dry spots. The album kicks of with the piano ballad, "For Your Money" which also uses drums and faint violins, giving the starter some sort of structure. Following up not-so-swiftly is, "Impossible," which I don't like so much. It has a nice melody in the build up towards the chorus but never really progresses, although I like the drums and horns which is basically the only feat that interests me about this song.

"Change," was the first song I've ever heard by Merriweather. I first heard it near the beginning of the year and I was thoroughly impressed. The funky bassline, the nifty production and burst of horns in the background are just archetypal Ronson production and I love it. The other single, "Red" is another knockout, a classic weepy ballad --I especially love the acoustic feel, the combination of drums and strings and Merriweather's sentimental vocal.

More highlights on here include, "Cigarettes" which inherently is completely backed by an acoustic guitar and some fortuitous catchy lyrics: ("Now my clothes smell like Cigarettes, but I don't smoke at all"). "Could You," is another favorite, very upbeat and cheery, aided by some melodic, layered soaring vocal in the chorus. "Water And A Flame," with Adele, is an obvious highlight --Mark Ronson produced some wonderful stuff for Adele's debut album, Nineteen so with the 2 together, plus a new talent, Merriweather, this had to be a gooden.

Whilst the rest of the album isn't bad, there's nothing that really standout in comparison to the noted highlights. "Live By Night," is a bluesy ballad, with some nice keys running through but nothing major. "Giving Everything Away For Free," has a very nice melody and "Chainsaw," is a pretty bland ballad, but the recurring burst of organ does some-what save the song from complete bleakness. "Not Giving Up," should've been really good, but falls short as it maintains no notably melody to draw any interests to the song.

"Getting Out," has a reasonably rugged throwback-soul vibe, especially during the verses, but mellows out when it reaches the chorus. The album closes with the smooth, "The Children" which takes a care-free route, fueled with some: "la la las" to materialize the idea.

Mark Ronson sure didn't go all out as he did on Amy Whinehouse's Back to Black, but he did help make a decent introduction to Merriweather, as a force to be reckoned with in the near future. Love & War isn't anything spectacular but is definitely not underwhelming --a good jump off point for his next album.

Best: Red, Change, Cigarettes, Could You, Water And A Flame, Giving Everything Away For Free


ww_adh said...

You seem to feel about the same as I do about this. Good, but not amazing. I do love "Red" though. And "For Your Money" has grown on me. I hope it's a future single.

J.Mensah said...

"Money," hasn't grown on me that much. but I've really gotten into, "Giving Everything Away For Free" tho.