Albuquerque the Magazine review
It was a Saturday in June of 1995. A friend had heard about an open-air music fest on Central next to Bow Wow Records, and other than Seattle-based headliners Green Apple Quickstep, we weren't familiar with any bands on the bill... but a free concert in the middle of a blocked-off intersection is a pretty attractive event when you're twenty. Around four o'clock, acousta-rock locals Naomi took the stage. Performing their energizing set like veterans, singer/guitarists Jason Daniello and Ben Hathorne's soaring vocal tradeoffs drew spectators by the dozen to cheer and dance on the scorching blacktop. I was an instant fan. Moreover, it was an epiphany: Naomi's infectious choruses and mature harmonies ran the stylistic gamut from Blues Traveler to Matthew Sweet to Blind Melon, but if a band that talented could reside completely beneath the mainstream radar, what other equally amazing underground acts might I not be lucky enough to stumble across in my own neighborhood?
Nine years later, I'm still exploring the vast and genre-defying realms of underground music, and although Naomi is gone, Jason Daniello is writing and performing the most gloriously soulful stuff of his life. The new album's title, Everything Good, sums it up: Jason has concentrated and distilled down everything good about Naomi and tempered it with the experience of nearly two decades making music, creating a those most taut and subtly powerful record of his career. Due in September, Everything Good is a Beatles-esque mood-pop masterpiece to file alongside modern classics like Beck's Mutations and REM's Automatic For The People. Seriously. Jason performs regularly (often at Kelly's BYOB on Central), engaging audiences with a rich vocal tone as singularly recognizable as those of Peter Gabriel, Ben Folds, Billy Joel or Mark Lanegan -- though if he sounded enough like any one of them to really make a comparison, he wouldn't be Jason. And of the events building up to his emergence as one of the most renowned singers in Albuquerque? "It's just the ebb and flow of life," he says. "Sometimes you've gotta inhale, sometimes you've gotta exhale." Visit Jason's website, www.jasondaniello.com, for an up-to-date gig schedule and info on all his records including the forthcoming Everything Good.
- Albuquerque The Magazine, August 2004
Everything Good is the culmination of more than half a decade of re-evaluation, woodshedding, experimentation and dedication, and it shows.
Daniello, now a bona fide multi-instrumentalist, has evolved into a songwriting force-composer, arranger, producer-and the results pour forth on the album's 10 mesmerizing tracks. With a little help from Ryan Martino and a few others, Daniello has finally set his solo career on the fast track. Killer!
- Weekly Alibi Nov. 2004
Can't stop the music
Jason Daniello was raised near the lava fields of Grants, home to prehistoric ice caves and dinosaur fossils. Maybe that's why there is something unusual about his music: His distinct style of desert rock sounds familiar and fresh at the same time. Daniello now calls Albuquerque home, perhaps to find a larger arena for his alternative rhythms, or is it the growing music scene? The city is filled with skilled players, and Daniello has recruited several for his band, Jason and the Argonauts, Ryan Anthony on drums, Dan Spanogle handling bass along with Daniello on guitar and vocal have made them a monthly favorite at The Taos Inn, and at many venues around the Southwest. "Music is something that has always driven me throughout my life," Daniello said. "It's just something I do, I can't stop."
It started at age 11. Since then he's become a multi-instrumentalist and played in several bands. His first solo album, "Re-creation" was one of the best regional releases in recent years with stations throughout the state giving airtime to an unprecedented five tracks. KTAO-FM 101.9 continues to get regular requests for several of his tunes and it's been out for five years. I've played it enough that I have many of the lyrics memorized, so when his follow-up, "Everything Good" hit the streets, I couldn't wait to slide it into the player.
I must admit that in my first listen I wasn't sure it could measure up to my worn copy of his first album. He's changed, and his music reflects that. Don't get me wrong, he still cranks out 10 original songs, but the electricity comes from another storm. By the third listen, I liked this one as much as "Re-creation". With Daniello, it's not simply his lyrics or even the melody of his songs, rather it's the sound, something in the arrangement, that creates the edge.
His voice conveys traces of angst, which belie his easygoing nature. Still, there is something happier about this album, something more played out. It opens with a pounding track, "What You Can," that you know the drummer just loves to play. "Resist" starts with the lines: "It's crazy to think I had it all in my hands, then I lost it at the sight of myself with a glance," which is typical of the irony he threads through his lyrics. The ballad, "I Do," comes next, with his wife, Liz LeBleu, helping out on backing vocals, making this one a stand-out.
title track brims with steely emotions brought from the music's composition and subtle playing of the band. Daniello calls it one of his favorites. "I like the simplicity of it," he said. "I'm trying to aspire to be able to appreciate the ordinary in life."
"Elizabeth Anne" is a sweet tribute to his wife, but you could miss all that because of the catchy tune in which he's wrapped it. "Walking away," with the fewest lyrics, is the power-core of this record. It's a mood-shifting, life-refleting force that reminds how deep a song can cut into us.
The "hit single" buried at track nine, "Tiny Pill," moves tempo while still posing questions- but the answers are cool. And in spite of everything I've said up until now, the final cut, "Daylight," is my favorite. This is one of those records that gets better with each listen and "Daylight" seems to tie together the extremes of his music, from bitter lyrics to contentment and excitement, slow beats to rocking out.
Daniello, who is also going to school for graphic design, did the layout and took all the photos for the album. He's created a spread that is odd album-art in an interestingly bazaar sort of way. His wife's 91-year-old grandfather, F. Boyce LeBleu, painted the cover of the CD. Daniello plans for his next project to be a "home-grown acoustic album." We'll miss the drums, but change is good. Seeing him play live with his band is another treat- These three guys are tight and put out more music than seems possible. Whatever desert rock really means, Daniello is there with his guitar from sunrise to midnight, among the coyotes and cactus.
By Brandt Legg
The Taos News
Jason (yes, of Jason and the Argonauts) is one busy guy. Not only is he playing all over the Southwest with his band, he is releasing a second solo record here in Albuquerque. This New Mexican powerhouse scores again with Everything Good.
A completely original album, Everything Good flows between folk and rock, slow harmonic melodies and faster upbeat tempos. Each song shines. No one song will become "breakaway" single because I foresee people quoting all of them to each other.
Hyperactive Music Magazine, Nov. 2004
Jason Daniello Hyperactive interview
During my interview with Albuquerque singer/songwriter Jason Daniello at our neighborhood coffee shop, a passerby recognized him and launched into a flood of questions about Naomi (Daniello's defunct first band), even going so far as to beg for some Naomi CDs to replace those his wife had taken in their divorce. Anonymity is a relative thing.
Daniello, like so many struggling talents, has yet to see music fandom at large offer up some much-deserved recognition. Locally, though, the exuberant musician has been a subject of praise for nearly ten years, with his tireless dedication yielding a wealth of soulful material, including two albums by Naomi (hurts and World Spinning) and two solo records (Re-creation and the just-released Everything Good).
Touchstones for Daniello's songs range from Wilco to Sparklehorse to Paul Westerberg to Neil Young. "There's no genre I don't like," his says of his multi-faceted work. "I love music, period. I do enjoy mimicking certain styles for fun, but there's something to be said for focusing, and I think I did focus on the new record." That much is true--Everything Good is accessible indie pop throughout, while the Naomi records and Re-creation are generously interwoven with folk, rock and alt-country threads. "In the long term, I want to write all kinds of songs," he adds. "On the next record I'll probably do something totally acoustic, weird sounding and rootsy. I don't care about being in a certain genre."
A native New Mexican, Daniello grew up near Mount Taylor, moving to Albuquerque in 1991 to study vocal performance at UNM. It didn't take. "I studied for two years and didn't like the classical methods or formality of the training," he reflects. He didn't leave the program emptyhanded, however, having met fellow singer/guitarist and eventual Naomi counterpart Ben Hathorne. "We just wanted to make music for a living," Daniello says. "We got gigs as a duo for about six months, both playing guitar and singing. We'd play a lot of shows in a month, sometimes as many as twenty when we were just an acoustic duo, so we got kind of a buzz going. [Then] when the band started the gigs tapered off a bit, but we still had the buzz."
The band was soon rounded out with drums and bass, and began playing throughout New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Naomi went on to record two albums that showcased a soaring dual vocal approach and the complementary voices of Daniello and Hathorne. What sounded like musical harmony, though, was gradually becoming less than seamless between Naomi's chief architects. "I got into this countryish, folksy phase," Daniello says, "while Ben wanted to get heavier, and in the end I was ready to move on more than he was." A testament to their remarkable chemistry as players, Naomi's songwriting process had always been highly individualized as well. "We didn't really co-write; [Ben and I] each just brought songs to the table. I'm still yearning for that collaborative effort, but I've never really had it."
Simultaneously, Daniello had also taken the first inadvertent steps toward the next phase of his musical career. "I was invited to go record at Thunderbird Studios as a guinea pig for a recording class, and they kept inviting me back, so I kept accumulating these songs. I was probably halfway done with [Re-creation] when Naomi ended."
The period immediately after Naomi's demise saw the release of Daniello's first solo album (1999), along with some dabbling in other projects, and he admits to a bit of uncertainty in his direction. "At the time Naomi broke up, I was thinking seriously of a solo career, but then started a band called Boss Tweed with local musician/producer Ryan Martino, along with Johnny Cassidy from Venus Diablo and Jeff Romaniuk [Naomi's drummer]. It lasted six months," he laughs. "It's all therapeutic, though, and I believe everything happens in its right time." Fortunately, he now had a solo album to get behind in a live setting, even without a full band. The album, Re-creation, is a more cohesive work than Daniello's above reference to focusing indicates. At fourteen songs, it moves quite naturally from twang to mood rock to Caribbean balladry and back, with his wistful yet buoyant voice uniting the disparate styles. Further, the record is a telling snapshot of an artist finding his way; standout tracks "Across The Country In A Bus" and "It's Alright" are as dissimilar as the roles of solo musician and band member, yet Daniello's equal ease in performing each highlights the inherent connectedness of it all. Compare his recorded output to that of The Beatles, and Re-creation is his Revolver.
The last several years have seen Daniello's time divided between an ongoing solo performance schedule as well as batches of shows with The Argonauts, the trio he formed after releasing Re-creation. "With the solo thing, you don't have to rely on anyone or coordinate anything except yourself, and it definitely gives you more freedom. I have so many songs as a solo artist that I don't have with the band, so it gives me more freedom to pull from all of that or experiment in a live setting. But I also want to be able to rock out, and that's where the band is great." His second solo album came together during this period as well.
Co-produced with longtime friend Martino, Everything Good's lyrics convey a sense of Daniello more at home in his skin than on previous material. It's powerfully earnest, yet leaves room for a listener's own notion of meaning. "Lyrics tend to just pour out of me, and I don't necessarily want anyone else to interpret them the way I do. A lot of times it's raw emotion, and usually the meaning comes from the subconscious; then I'll read back over them and say, "Okay, that's what's happening here."" Asked whether he enters the writing process with specific themes in mind, he laughs. "Hardly ever. I'd love to write with more direction... but a lot of songs become what they are through evolution."
Extremely prolific, Daniello chose from over forty songs in constructing the new album. "I wanted to make a concise record. Personally, when I listen to a record now, I like to be able to take it all in and there to be more to look forward to later. Is this the best ten out of the forty? Not necessarily, it's just the ones that worked best together... to make a thematic record." What's the theme? "It embodies a relationship... kind of an ending of one relationship and the start of another one. Some of the songs date back to before I met my wife, and it was kind of a yearning... I mean, my last record was in 1999, so this definitely encompasses a pretty broad period of time." And his favorite on the album? "The title track, because it's very drony and I like the words. It just kinda reminds me that life is repetition, no matter what you're doing, and you have to embrace that, somehow, to get through it and have some contentment or ease."
Hearing this last statement, I naturally wondered how he views his career right now. "At this point I'm just relying on synchronicity, and I'm gonna keep playing gigs and putting out CDs. I think things take time, and sometimes they take more time than you would ever have expected them to, especially getting more widespread recognition." With Daniello nearly ten years in and still awaiting that turning point, one can only agree. "I don't measure success by how many records I've sold; I measure it by how much I enjoy playing and singing," he continues sagely. "I have the reality of perspective."
Jason Daniello will hold a CD release party for "Everything Good" at The Launchpad tonight with performances by The Oktober People, Alex Rose and Spybox. Cover is $5. Show starts at 9 p.m.
The hip-hop explosion of the past couple of decades has had such a huge influence on popular music that when modern-day listeners are confronted with a textbook example of a "song" with lines of melody, for example, it may be startling at first.
While initially that may seem like a negative thing, well-written songs, such as those found on singer/songwriter Jason Daniello's latest offering, "Everything Good," (self-released) suddenly appear as fresh as hip-hop might have in its infancy. Following his debut, "Re-Creation," Daniello's well-honed craft is in full bloom on songs such as the instantly hummable "Elizabeth Anne" (a nod to Elvis Costello's "Alison") and the potent melodicism of "Resist" (akin to the Gin Blossoms' best material).
Daniello's keen pop sensibilities result in songs that are fluid, simple and brilliantly structured. From the bright acoustic hooks of the album's opener, "What You Can," to the slow-burn electric guitar and thick bass lines of the title track, Daniello holds his heart on his sleeve both lyrically and instrumentally.
Daniello is a shot in the arm for both the loved and the lovelorn. If the world is just, Jason Daniello would be a household name. Relationships would be just as difficult, but easier to get through with "Everything Good" as the soundtrack.
By Kevin Hopper
For the Journal October 22, 2004
Wig Wam Bam Everything Good review
Yeah, the reviews are in and already bringing up Mr Daniello's former project, Naomi with Mr Hathorne. Ok, I'll add a few cents into that purse --but after that we'll just get on with it... Showcasing the best of Jason's strengths, you could bookend this release with the self-titled The Hopefuls CD of 1999 (which despite the name was for all intents and purposes solo Ben Hathorne; you can't fool us, man!).
The very first hard-strummed downstrokes of the opening What You Can caught me off guard and made me sit up and take note. In fact I hit the Track 1 button less than a minute in just to get the feel of that strong intro again.
After hearing Jason on and off for oh maybe eight years now I still can't get over that voice. Its almost too good, so smooth and even fuller with (ahem) age. Its no studio trick either, the man sounds just like this on stage. Its uncanny. Its almost as if--well, no...JD's too nice to have made a deal with the devil but maybe a pact with some vocals guardian angel...?
Although I prefer my Daniello tunes with more crunch and jangle (as in "and the Argonauts"), this remains a fine release, mostly of the thoughtful and romantic singer-songwriter genre. And somehow, with no obvious references, it puts me in the mind of Rubber Soul/ Revolver-era McCartney.Too, I wasn't surprised to see Ryan Martino credits all over the place: producer, engineer and mix-man and it shows.
Review by Captain America