Daniel Whitehouse – Midnight Swimmer review

Secret Meeting score: 77

by Phil Scarisbrick

During the latter half of the 2000s, Sheffield became a hotbed for indie music – with a deluge of bands littering the pages of the music press. It was the usual effect of a band becoming stratospheric, and A&R men clambering for the next big thing. Arctic Monkeys’ record breaking put the microscope on their hometown, and saw others – such as Reverend & The Makers, Milburn, Bromheads Jacket and Little Man Tate – following with varying success. One band from the city that flew a little under the radar was Mabel Love. Although they were clearly of the same postcode, their music brought in other influences such as Echo & The Bunnymen and Nick Cave. The subjects they tackled felt more mature, as did their arrangements. And although we never got a long player from the band, it was with great excitement to discover that guitarist, Daniel Whitehouse, has a new album out.

His debut solo release, Stories For You, was a collection of emotively-affecting songs that largely centred around piano, guitar and vocals. The new record, Midnight Swimmer, continues in the same vein thematically, but has a much grander, and polished sound. Opening track, Win Again, is a full band affair with subtle nods to The National. If you were unfamiliar with Whitehouse’s music before throwing the album on, this track really is a fine introduction.

Although it may not have the same power, Whitehouse’s voice has an earnestness not unlike Richard Ashcroft. Sliver Slide’s sparse arrangement allows him to utilise this in a way that packs a real gut punch. Scars’ chorus melody is a little derivative, but his poignant delivery allows you to overlook this as he sings, “We, we are left with scars”.

Celebrate returns to The National influence we heard earlier with more Dessnerian guitar work, while Paper Cups sounds like an indie film soundtrack waiting to happen. Album closer, God Verse Machine – a guitar and keys instrumental – acts as the perfect, atmospheric conclusion to a wonderful record. The term ‘singing from the heart’ seems to be one of those over-used clichés that has become synonymous with people doing karaoke on a TV talent show to legitimise their premise. In the case of Daniel Whitehouse though, it is the correct term to use. The eight tracks collated here are so emotionally affecting that you can’t help but be transported into his world. Although the whole record clocks in at just twenty nine minutes, I can guarantee that once it is over, Midnight Swimmer will leave you wanting to dive straight back in.

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