Daniel Johns was ‘silent’ for 8 years, but today he announced that his long-awaited album will be called Talk, set for release May 22 (available for pre-order now). Talk will be launched with two special shows at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on May 28 and 29 as part of the Vivid Festival in Australia. In the meantime, Johns has released a new single “Cool On Fire” co-written and produced by Lorde/Jarryd James collaborator Joel Little. Listen to it here!
During those long, silent years there was lots of speculation about what Daniel was doing. The enigmatic singer/songwriter removed himself from radar. Rumors were rife. “Some of the rumors were probably true,” he chuckles. Which ones? “Well, anyone who wants to listen to the new songs will figure it out pretty quick. It’s been an interesting ride.”
Talk tells that story in a brand new way. Gone are the big guitars and roaring rock vocals; in their place, urban beats and aching falsetto croons. Dollops of lush R&B are laced with cruisy electro flavors and some dark glitchy bedroom production touches to create a stylish take on modern soul. Asked to explain this Bowie-esque genre hopping and he eventually says, “Music’s the best way I know to express how I think and feel but over time you don’t think and feel all the same things in the same ways so the music has to change.”
From teen grunge sensations, through orchestral rock to baroque pop, Daniel Johns was never scared to completely reinvent himself. Even so, there is a core thread that unites all of his work – a raw and unfiltered emotional honesty. A direct line can be drawn from his best ‘spill-your-guts’ ‘90s tunes, including “Israel’s Son” and “Ana’s Song” through later Silverchair classics such as “The Greatest View” and “Straight Lines” into new tracks like “Too Many” and “Preach.” All talk of dark days with a distinctly searing quality.
The eclectic mix of sounds and styles on this new album reflect the array of collaborators that he brought on board. Lorde and Broods producer/co-writer Joel Little brings his breezy grooves to key tracks like “Cool On Fire,” “Warm Hands” and the first song to be lifted off the album, “Aerial Love.” Melbourne underground duo Damn Moroda and influential writer/producer Louis School helped create tracks like “Goin’ On 16,” “We Are Golden,” “Too Many” and the epic “New York,” while Presets mainman (and co-writer of “Straight Lines”) Julian Hamilton helped pen two of the album’s most immediate moments – “By Your Side” and “Dissolve.”
But it is the songs created with local hip hop icons Styalz and M-Phazes that push the envelope farthest. Deep grooves such as “Imagination,” “Chained” and “Faithless” find Daniel stepping into “futuristic R&B” territory. Throw in a few quieter moments like “Sleepwalker” and “Good Luck” and you’re left with a sprawling, but still densely packed, body of work. It’s highly musical and often highly confessional as one would expect from Daniel Johns and yet, at the same time, it’s still profoundly shocking; particularly to those accustomed to the instant gratification norms of most 21st century pop.
Aptly enough, the first songs to be lifted from Talk have already provoked mountains of online chatter. For every music lover excited to hear radically different work by Daniel there are a couple of others ‘trolling’ him for not endlessly churning out the same sounds since his mid-teens.
“I’ve always felt like most people hate everything I do, but thankfully there’s always been an enthusiastic minority who seem to ‘get’ it. That’s fine with me. Anything that appeals to everyone tends to suck anyway. What’s funny is that when Silverchair released Frogstomp most people went out of the way to tell me how much it sucked. Then when we made Diorama a few years later everyone started telling me how I should go back to making Frogstomp. I guess now I’ll be told to go back and make Diorama again! That was part of why I picked the album title too, by the way. I don’t really care what most people think. Let them talk.”