by Chris Hatch
When news of a full-length Dog Daisies LP filtered through to Secret Meeting HQ, it was met with a mixture of anticipation and intrigue. Such is the ever-shifting nature of his sound, it was almost impossible to predict in which direction the Lancastrian musician would head – 2018’s A River Runs Through It EP married windswept, full-band epics with forays into layered instrumental experimentations, while earlier this year An Inland Voyage Pt 1 and Pt 2 were gentler affairs that found Dog Daisies flitting between standard singer-songwriter territory and playful, home-recording solo efforts.
Eagletism finds Stephen Hudson backed by a full band and sounding all the more confident for it. There are speckles of his pared-down, bedroom-produced tendencies of old, but the main body comes in the way of bright, sparkling indie rock. Crucially, it’s a sound that has brought out the best that Dog Daisies has offered yet.
Hudson’s influences for the album read like a pop cultural shopping list – everything from Vonnegut to time travel, and Donnie Darko to Grandaddy have all shaped the tracks that make up Eagletism. But it’s the central theme of the natural existing alongside the man-made that bleeds through time and time again – an idea perfectly captured in the album’s artwork, as an eagle soars against an endless tide of M6 traffic.
The songs on Eagletism conjure up images of the landscape smudging by as you course along highways carved through the English countryside – pouring rain, babbling brooks and waning moons jostle alongside roadside cafe toilets, and nameless quarries as you breathlessly try to keep track of the modern and the ancient; throughout, though, Hudson’s voice possesses a calming quality that somehow keeps you centred throughout the LP.
The record is pinpricked with gloriously life-affirming moments – Wind Tunnel and A River Runs Through It sit perfectly alongside the understated complexity of The Moon Departs and the joyful naivety of To Win, while Hennigan’s Steed offers up a more experimental, electronic side of Dog Daisies sound. It’s penultimate track, Mattress Valley Mattress, that is the most arresting and affecting – it’s a sumptuous, slow-building piece that takes a few listens to sink it’s teeth in, but when it does it doesn’t let go.
Eagletism speaks of those poignantly beautiful modern-day contradictions – those rolling green pastures interrupted by towering electricity pylons; those unnatural coastal reinforcements being lapped by fizzing, foamy waves. It’s the kind of stuff that whizzes by as you hurtle along on some long car ride, or that blurs past through the window of a train and leaves you in a woozy daze – but for all this rich, vivid imagery, it’s Hudson’s laser sharp songwriting that is the greatest success of the LP, striking a perfect balance between quirky, esoteric musings, and good old-fashioned, instant indie rock.
Secret Meeting score: 86