I first heard of Howie Day in the summer of ’05, when his song, Collide was pretty much everywhere I went. I fell for Day’s laid back, acoustic/singer-songwriter sound easily, and picked up his sophomore album, Stop All The World Now. I became a certified fan of his after purchasing the Madrigals EP, and witnessing Day’s amazing musicianship. So it only seemed logical to start at the beginning and buy his first CD.
Originally released in 2000 (and then re-released in ’02 by Epic Records), Australia is a decent debut CD comprised of early versions of songs included on Day’s sophomore effort, and other tunes that would fit in perfectly during a cool evening while watching the sunset.
The album begins with Sorry So Sorry, a breezy song that was also performed live on the Madrigals EP. This studio rendition is nice; Day’s guitar and vocals are understated, but the song is still pleasant to listen to. The same could be said of She Says, a song which was later included on Stop. This version has less production going on, and more of Day’s singing and mellow guitar work- again, lovely to hear, but nothing entirely remarkable.
The mood changes up a bit with Secret, the first truly memorable song on the disc. Drums, which have been conspicuously absent so far on the album, are heard throughout the song, giving a more upbeat vibe to the melody. The song ponders the allure of a lover, and while the lyrics aren’t incredibly unique or special, they’re still worth noting (“Taking sleepy pills for rest/Anxious love gets so obsessed/It’s your love affair/On a quiet sunday afternoon/And your speedy pills/You should know I’m into you/Why would you not try to be?”). Slow Down begins quietly before fading into a psychedelic-type sound (which is really just electric guitar), and then fading back into hushed vocals, guitar, and drums. This song is another strong point on the album- the chorus gives off a light and cheerful feeling, and Day’s voice is particularly nice to listen to during this song. Towards the middle of the track, the electric guitars return, and the song almost takes on an alternative rock sound, which works very well.
One of my favorite songs by Day is Ghost (which I first heard on Madrigals), and it makes an appearance on this CD as well. The song begins slowly, with Day strumming on his acoustic guitar. The mellow mood continues throughout the song, and the subdued track might pass by many without even getting a second listen. However, it’s the lyrics (“Lately I’ve been thinking/Lately I’ve been dreaming with you/I’m so resistant to this type of thinking/Oh, now it’s shining through/I thought we’d walk these streets together/Now I’m hoping that I’ll never have to meet you/Step aside from all this anger/And somewhere in between I can feel you/Ask me should we try again/I’m thinking no/Y’know, it’s not what I believe in”) and the relaxing feeling that the song brings that keeps me coming back for more. Another of the album’s highlights is Kristina. I really enjoy Day’s vocals during this song; he sings a bit in his upper register, and his tone is incredibly alluring. The lyrics are good (“Reeling inside/She wants to call/She can spin my motivation/Like a record off the wall”) but the strength in the song really lies in the acoustic guitar-based melody.
The songs all take a trip to mediocrity-ville for the rest of the album, however. Everything Else is the first truly upbeat song on the disc, but the words are a bit muddled, and the chorus is forgettable and sounds like thousands of songs I’ve already heard before. More You Understand sounds like some of Day’s recent stuff, but isn’t nearly as catchy or memorable as some of his other compositions. The song isn’t offensive in any way; Day sounds good at all times, and the melody is nice, but the song is, quite simply, boring. The same could be said of Morning After, a live track that sounds almost identical to a handful of other songs that Day has composed.
The album ends with Disco a mid-tempo track that starts off without much promise. The opening melody again sounds similar to Day’s other work, but the song picks up towards the end as Day begins singing louder and strumming heavily on his guitar, giving the melancholy song more energy. Though the song isn’t the strongest on the album, it’s still a nice end to the album.
Australia is a fairly decent debut album. We only get a minor glimpse of Howie Day’s capability as a musician (in other words, the best is yet to come), but the disc still has a few highlights that let his talent shine.
1. Sorry So Sorry
2. She Says
4. Slow Down
7. Everything Else
8. More You Understand
9. Morning After