About half of a year ago, Kristyn and I went to see Daniel Romano in San Francisco in support of his latest record, If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, of which he played only slightly more than zero tracks. Nearly everything he did was new material. Only one of those songs appears on Mosey, essentially making this his third volume of music since 2015.
Full disclosure: You’d be hard pressed to find someone who loves the music of Daniel Romano more than I. When your super-best favorite artist releases their newest record on your birthday, things are really going your way. Pardon me if I’m completely beside myself right now.
Mosey’s lo-fi 60s vibe is certainly a departure from the crooning country ballads we have grown accustomed to hearing from Daniel Romano, but not as much as it seems at first glance. When one first spins one of his records, there is an immediate familiarity. You think you have a pretty good idea of what is going on, but when you pay closer attention, you start to notice the unusual chord changes, unconventional phrasing, and even extended or shortened bars to force the songs onto the lyrical content they are designed deliver. It takes an exceptional musician and an extremely creative artist to create something that feels right at home with the traditional music of a given genre, while sneaking in foreign complexities that push the sound in completely new directions.
This latest release is no different in that respect. It certainly has a different retro vibe on the surface, but it is still packed with the prerequisite crooning, heartbreak, and tongue-in-cheek personality that defines the music of Daniel Romano.
When the “(Gone Is) All but a Quarry of Stone” pre-mix single was released last month, I was certain we were in for a much bigger departure into the avant-garde than Mosey has turned out to be. The arrangement of this song that appears on the record may actually be the most traditional country track. Part R&B, part two-step, part swing, the chorus’ familiar country hook is kicked around with a delightfully rushed “Gone is” pickup.
Another thing that really stands out on this record is the exceptional piano work. Liner notes aren’t readily available online, but I would certainly like to know who is responsible for the hauntingly tragic melodies on “One Hundred Regrets Avenue,” and “The Collector.” The phrasing between the vocal and the piano on the former almost work too well together for one to believe it could be more than one person.
There is quite a lot to digest on this record. One could easily draw cliché, genre-spanning comparisons to 60s and 70s psychedelic pop, but that is dangerously underselling Mosey and the artists behind it. Daniel Romano is not retro, he simply picks up where whatever has inspired him left off and pushes it into uncharted territory. Everyone should be listening to this alarmingly under-appreciated music.