Jad Fair & Danielson - Solid Gold Heart - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jad Fair & Danielson - Solid Gold Heart

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2014-06-23

I can't speak for anyone else, but it's a rare musical experience that brings a cheshire grin to my face, and causes my head to loll quickly from side to side as if I were surveying a giant rainbow. I last experienced this while watching The Polyphonic Spree performing 'It's the Sun' at the Bonnaroo Festival (on DVD). I was enthralled by those robed-up disciples singing their joyful paean to the sun. Good song, to be sure, but it was the unbridled joy of the track which grabbed me.

Ordinarily, this kind of evangelical zeal has my pagan head spinning at revolutions that'd make Linda Blair blush, but, you know, there are always exceptions, songs which apply a blowtorch to my steely humanist resolve. So, all you fellow black t-shirted zealots, please read on.

Solid Gold Heart has thoroughly endeared itself to me. Daniel Smith, with whom Jad Fair collaborates on this album, doesn't mind a bit of religious hustle in his performances, grounded as he is in gospel. As Danielson, he has always been a talented writer of indie-pop, but his high-pitched vocal warblings have, up until now, occasionally grated on me. Not so on Solid Gold Heart. His voice is superb, sympathetic to the musical outlines provided to him by Jad Fair, and conveying just the right amount of pathos to the words and tunes. 

If you share a kinship to artists like Sparklehorse, Daniel Johnston, and The New Pornographers - that is, if you love off-kilter indie with plenty of hooks - then you’ll love Solid Gold Heart‘Go Ahead‘ gets us started, with Jad Fair’s vocalisations conveying instructions to Daniel Smith about the track’s rhythmic meter, picked up expertly by Smith.

On the title track, the musicians appear to present different templates of the composition, stitching them together, with Fair providing the skeletal outline. A beautiful synthesis evolves; a joyous refrain, complete with the interposition of some nightclub saxophone. It's a great pop miniature. The sax re-emerges prominently in 'Not No' and counter-intuits the song with some screeching atonalism. Again, great stuff, and highly inventive.

‘Rockin on the Good Side‘ is a celebration of the collegiate musicians’ fraternity: “We're born to rock/ We've got the power/ The power of love/ Rockin like Superman/ Rockin like Batman... Rockin on the side of good... Standing up for sunshine/ Rockin like McCartney/ Rockin like George Harrison... Like Daniel Johnston/ Like BMX bandits... Rockin on the good side... We've got that need.” On ‘Ready Steady’, the sun again shines brightly, and we’re all reminded we deserve the odd luxury in life, whatever form that takes.

Of course, all of this could seem didactic, but the message is delivered more intimately than that, with a kind of nonchalance. The music is more important than the message. The arrangements are universally brilliant. The addition of clarinet to 'On and On' imports an odd time-capsule aspect to the music, as if Benny Goodman dropped in to the studio. 

'You Got Me in a Spin' has hand-claps, female call-and-response backing vocals, and more tastefully placed horns. On final track 'Here’s Our Time', there’s a slightly weird, call-to-the-wild addition of howling wolves over gentle re-assuring vocals singing, "Sure enough every word was meant/ Every word magnificent/ It’s gonna work out fine". And so they are, and so it did. A great American record. 

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