We first heard from new Sparrow artist Phil Danyew (better known these days as simply "Danyew") back in February with the release of a two-song digital single. Those who picked up this release were treated to a duo of very fine songs, the powerful pop song "Streetlight" and the hushed worship ballad "Beautiful King," and a solid introduction to a talented young artist. Two months later, Danyew's self-titled debut EP brings these songs back with four additional songs and a chance to get to know this new artist a little better.
The comparisons to another Phil - Wickham, that is - are inevitable; their voices are very similar, and Britpop influences draw those conclusions right away (Perhaps this is for good reason, since the two are long-time friends). Musically, however, Danyew takes on an electronica-influenced alternative pop sound that is all his own. He has a knack for songs that are instantly accessible with catchy, singable hooks, but multiple listens reveal something deeper and stronger than another batch of pretty pop tunes. Citing artists like Radiohead and Bjork among his musical influences, these six songs feature a variety of rich soundscapes built with sounds organic and synthetic, giving something new to discover every time they're heard. With such a focus on sound, the lyrics can sometimes feel subtle, hovering just below the surface, until on the fourth spin or so the message will jump out and take hold. All of the elements meld together into the sort of music that you let go and experience, vital for a short EP like this to hold up after multiple listens.
It's hard to pick highlights on such a short album, especially when the songs are so unique and strong on their own. Still, "Streetlight" is easily the best track on the record. The melody is simply infectious, and his voice soars right along with the powerful chorus. It's a nice contrast to the darker-toned "Close Your Eyes," an electronica-driven song through and through that sometimes musically sounds like it could have been lifted from a Radiohead record somewhere.
But just when it seems to be all about flashy studio pop and electronic experimentation, the latter half of the EP glides into "Beautiful King," a whispering, worshipful song. The electronic synth feel is still there, but it's more for a hushed background to acoustic guitars and strings. The vocals are subdued and heartfelt, joining the music for genuinely beautiful worship. The energetic "Nothing Without You" and piano-based love song "Turnstile" close things out with a couple more twists in style. The variety of this EP is a great introduction to Danyew's versatility as an artist.
This is a tight debut that grabbed me from the start and didn't let go. Every song presents a unique facet to his different styles, every part fitting together into a seamless whole. I'm only sorry it wasn't longer, because it's a joy to listen to that left me wanting more. Danyew accomplishes so much in the album's 22-minute run that I can't help but wonder what he can do with a full-length project. Here's hoping it's just a hint of what he's capable of and a sign of more great music ahead.- Review date: 4/18/09, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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