Howie Day | Australia (Epic Records)

Day’s songwriting style is a compelling blend of slightly dark-toned music with lyrics that capture the emotional vulnerability of someone twice his age.

 

Singer-songwriter Howie Day might still be an unknown out here in the Midwest, but in other areas of the country, especially his home-turf territory in the New England area, Day has already developed a very solid and well-established reputation. Through steadily and consistently touring the college circuit between 1999 and 2001, Day gained himself thousands of diehard fans, some of whom became “street team” reps whose sole purpose is to spread the word about Day to others. This dedication eventually caught the attention of Sony’s Epic label, who snatched Day up and signed him on in early 2002. Named both the best new act and best male vocalist from Boston’s 2001 Music Awards, the 21-year-old Day is currently embarking on his first high-profile major tour as the opening act for Tori Amos.

Originally released independently in 2000, and funded entirely by Day’s then-meager income, his debut CD Australia sold an impressive 30,000 copies through Day’s Web site, and at the many small club and college campus shows where he played. Since its major label re-release earlier this year, the disc has earned tons of praise and critical acclaim from numerous online and print publications, and deservedly so.

Day’s songwriting style is a compelling blend of slightly dark-toned music with lyrics that capture the emotional vulnerability of someone twice his age. Add to that a healthy dose of soaring, well-crafted melodies, his songs sound as if they contain the ability to stand the test of time. Vocally, Day could be compared to a grittier Jeff Buckley or a higher-pitched Kevin Griffin from Better Than Ezra.

There really isn’t a bad (or even semi-bad) song out of Australia’s 10 tracks, which range in style between slow, simple ballads like “Kristina” and “Disco Afternoon” to faster, layered, sample-infused songs such as “Slow Down,” “Everything Else,” and my personal favorite, “More You Understand.” “Morning After” is the disc’s only live track, recorded by one of Day’s many taper fans, who collect and trade live show recordings with each other, a practice typically limited to fans of jam bands.

For those who are really into knowing a CD’s lyrics, you’re going to have to figure most of Australia’s words out by yourself, since Day chose to only print a few lines from each song in the CD’s pamphlet, some of which are not even in consecutive order. Stranger still is his use of the words “This Is Crazy” as the heading for the thank you section, which includes, among others, artists like The Samples, The Wallflowers, Guster, and Vertical Horizon. Fans of those bands will most likely take to Day’s music like a fish takes to water, but Australia will probably also appeal to a much broader spectrum of music lovers. For more information, go to www.howieday.com

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