Words by Kate Lockyer
Day Wave is a one-man indie band founded by Californian Jackson Phillips, and he is about to release his newest EP, ‘Crush’, on the 24th April. Two songs from the EP have been released as singles – Starting Again and Potions. He has been described by Vice as fitting in between “heavy dream pop and jangly indie rock”, with his music having both the vibrancy of pop and the persistent individuality of indie music. For Phillips, this EP is about reforging his identity and getting to the core of his sound. After putting Day Wave on hold for a few years while he focused on other projects, he has returned to creating original music invigorated. “The music on this EP was so personal that I felt like I had to make the whole thing by myself,” explains Phillips. “There’s something so much more fulfilling, so much more satisfying about working that way. It keeps the songs completely true to the original feelings that inspired them.”
The first song on the EP is called Starting Again, signalling his personal renewal. Day Wave sings, “I’m not gonna give in again / I told you the way I am / I don’t feel alone”. He is pushing back against old ghosts and lifting himself up. In fact, while he was lifted up, he might also have lifted off, into outer space, because the song has an almost space-age feel to it. High pitched, arpeggiated guitar is spotlighted through syncopation, and this is mixed in with synth and distortion on a lower-pitched riff. The track is pure polyphonic decadence. Reverb on Phillips’ voice and the echo of occasional backing vocals in the chorus just add to the idea of a song that is being played in the vast expanse of the cosmos.
Potions, the next song on the EP, is immediately addictive, beginning with spring-loaded guitar and a driving drumbeat. It hooks you in a few bars and delivers you to the front row of the audience, waiting in anticipation for the lyrics. It is appropriate that listener gets hooked; the song is about addiction, after all. The lyrics start with “You’re bad news but I don’t care / I’m thinking I want to be into it”. In this track, Phillips is singing about the powerlessness that comes with being fixated on something, whether it is a substance or something just as dangerous – a person. The upbeat, toe-tapping mood of the music belies the darker tone of the lyrics, as the song finishes with “If I can’t resist you / I’ll end up dead”.
Empty feels more toned down than the rest of the EP, a lot more lo-fi. The guitar and even the percussion is muted, showing a restraint that is mirrored in the story told by the lyrics. It is the story of someone who is hurting, and so is pushing people away. “My eyes are empty now / But I don’t want you feeling the same / Just stay away, my soul is empty now / But I don’t want you feeling the same”. Once again, Phillips shows adeptness in his harmonic arrangements – the biting guitar and melancholy harmonics paint an evocative sonic landscape of the pain in the song. Crush, the song that bears the title of the EP, is a nostalgic reflection on past mistakes. Day Wave sings morosely that “If I had in my hand all I did wrong / I’d crush it to death”. The haze created by the sustained chords and the vintage timbre of the piano create a dreamy.
‘Crush’ is a testament to Day Wave’s new maturity as a performer, where he has taken the opportunity to experiment with new sounds in finding his identity as a musician again. ‘Crush’ EP is out 24 April 2020 through I OH YOU/Liberator Music.
Pre-save ‘Crush’/Listen to Day Wave’s latest singles HERE.
With thanks to Mushroom + I OH YOU + Liberator Music