The darkness set in around 7:45 last night – the Fall is relentless in its approach this time of year. Rather than lament the summer now gone, it is time to start thinking about bonfires, pumpkin beer, and flannels (I’m in the Seattle area, after all). The perfect complement to those mandatory Autumnal delights is music that revels in the spirit of the season. Some of my fondest memories involve sitting around a fire, listening to friends play songs by The Smiths, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and whatever other tunes are easy to sing along to. Each Fall brings some variation of this bit of nostalgic story telling, but what can I say? A good time was had by all. Records that evoke those feelings can be hard to come by – if an artist tries too hard, it can sound a little too earnest. Off the cuff recordings bring the opposite problem – it can sound a little ragged. Malleability is the new record from Connecticut based indie artist Dan Florio, and it delivers a strong set of tunes in an Autumnal spirit.
Last year’s Big Thoughts in a Small Place EP was an unexpected delight – folk based tunes that felt familiar yet new. It was one of the records that I had on repeat throughout the fall and winter last year. The new record retains some of the atmosphere from that EP while adding in a more fleshed out sound on some of the tracks. Think Van Morrison during his Astral Weeks phase and you’ll have a general idea of the elements Dan Florio is adding to his compositions – jazzy, folky, with a few spare acoustic tunes scattered throughout. It goes without saying that Malleability is the best offering to date from Mr. Florio. The surprising element for me, was that it is better than the last record in ways that I hadn’t thought about – the music takes turn down previously unexplored passages. A winning record in every way, it’ll make a worth addition to your collection.
Uncharted Earth ahead (highlights)
Fleeting Embers opens the album, and what an opening song it is! Acoustic intro, understated vocals – the track builds from there. The chorus is an old friend, imploring us to “Feel the nice warm firewood / In the cold, cold air”. Impeccable musicianship, this reminds me of something that the bands on the Elephant 6 Collective might have done in the late 90’s / early 00’s. This is the track I’d choose to put on a playlist or mix CD (or mix tape, I suppose). Rations Running Low has a jazzy, infectious bass line running through it and features an overall looser vibe. Soulful ruminations are ushered forth in the vocals, the passion hard to ignore. This is the track that reminds me the most of Van Morrison, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Empty Lane returns to acoustic fare and is a late album highlight. The lyrics are nostalgia merged with the present, wrapped in resonant lyrical phrases. A drive home with the past as a passenger. “Listening to mellow tunes from older days / Harmonizing choruses / With nobody around / And I’m singing the whole drive down”. Balance and Precision ends the album on a high note, sparse acoustic backing and words that make an impact. “Not a word is spoken / His worries far away”
You can buy the record via Bandcamp – it is a pay what you want deal – and follow Dan’s musical happenings via Facebook. This is a sophomore record that outshines the debut and is perfect for listening to with friends. Highly recommended.
Verdict: Bright Burning Songs
For Fans of: Nick Drake, Neil Halstead, Sixth Great Lake, The Band, Belle and Sebastian, Neil Young
- Fleeting Embers
- Howls of Hounds
- Rations Running Low
- Empty Lane
- Balance and Precision