Detroit-based singer-songwriter Daniel Wilson has been making a big impact on blogosphere radars since the release of his debut EP Young Rubbish earlier this year. His stratospheric, androgynous voice has already drawn comparisons to the likes of Tunde Adebimpe and Tracy Chapman, and his latest offering showcases it to full effect. Boy Who Cried Thunder is a diverse musical offering that marries the singer’s stunning voice with everything from laidback electronica, propulsive pop, atmospheric minimalism and traditional soul, combining the sentiment of classic soul song writing and heartfelt vocal delivery, with a clear affinity for contemporary electro-pop sensibilities.
The EP bounds into focus with lively opener Proofread, whose glittering guitars and 80s-inspired synths immediately introduce us to Wilson’s notorious pipes. If You Went Away dreams up a more suspended soundscape. The piano-driven track creates grand drama with beautiful harmonies and a sweeping string arrangement. The EP’s title track uses a minimalistic approach to music making that creates the perfect accompaniment for Wilson’s consistently shiver-inducing voice. Boy Who Cried Thunder includes some impeccable melodic writing that exploits his exquisite falsetto enveloped by poignancy and sincerity, whose attractive tone is certainly practiced but never ever sterile. Fortunately the track is not replete with constant runs and vocalisation as so much pop music seems to be today (you start to wonder if they’re capable of singing a single note); Wilson makes use of a healthy amount of melismatic phrasing and counter melodies to effectively and appropriately accompany the musical and emotional climax.
Wilson’s more traditional soul influences are evident in Heartbreaker, whose keys and horn section evoke memories of the golden, timeless musical era. It’s stirring piano outro leads us into the EP’s upbeat finale. Killed Ya is an infectious, percussion heavy, disco-kissed track brimming with fantastic vocal harmonies and frenzied synthesisers. Its paranoid sound effects make the perfect, frenetic bed for the song’s lyrical content: “have you ever met someone who made you crazy/have you ever met someone who made you mad?”
Daniel Wilson is one of the most promising young artists making a name for himself today. The 23-year-old pursues a wonderful combination of contemporary and classic that remains both timeless and innovative. But his expansive collection of music and emotional influences are all connected by that distinct and affecting voice, a talent that I think will help cultivate a long and prolific career.