Review Summary: A complete surprise with strong vocals and lyrics and musical chops to boot.
When I first saw the video for "Collide" on MTV in the summer of 2005, I immediately dismissed Howie Day as one of those singer/songwriter types that sing really "sweet" songs and that girls die for because they have cool hair (read: James Blunt or Teddy Geiger). Certainly this guy would put out 3 or 4 candy-coated singalongs about breakups and then disappear into the abyss. Still, I couldn't deny that there was something real-sounding in his voice and that he wasn't just stringing meaningless rhymes together. So, I bought the album simply because I had 13 dollars lying around.
In the first track, "Brace Yourself", Day instantaneously impressed me with the grit and power in his voice, especially near the end of the song. What really wowed me was that multiple other tracks featured these dirty vocals, namely "Trouble in Here", "I'll Take You On", "She Says", and "You & a Promise". He seems to have a knack of when to complement his edgy lyrics with a distinct aggression, yet croon soothing verses to establish a sense of serenity in the listener. And lest we forget every singer's best friend. Day's falsetto is pretty average, but he knows not to fall back on it or slip into it without warning, something that all too many singers (I'm looking at you Raine) will do.
Another impressive element of this album is the ambience that Day creates. I read somewhere that he loops himself and plays over it, but whatever he does produces stunning results. Tracks such as "Perfect Time of Day" and "Standing In the Sun" use effects to create a bouncy, and for lack of a better word, sunny backdrop for his excellent vocals. A moody background is established in songs like "I'll Take You On" and especially "Numbness For Sound", where oceans of bass and reverb drown Day in his similarly melancholic-natured lyrics.
One problem I had with this album was the somewhat formula-based blueprint that most tracks fall under. The structure of the album doesn't change much from beginning to end, with the exeption of "I'll Take You On" which has a very extended verse-chorus-repeat-outro makeup. Also, I couldn't find one song on the album that wasn't accompanied by some effect for most of the song. I know I put this as a positive before, but it would have been nice to have one stripped-down variation, that of which "End of Our Days" nearly accomplishes. I guess I just got annoyed when violins came in for like the 10th straight song.
All in all, this is a very pleasant surprise for an album that I quite frankly did not expect to do anything at all for me. Day is easily one of my favorite vocalists in rock today, with a powerful voice (not to mention a falsetto) to match the likes of Brandon Boyd or Thom Yorke. His ever-looping pedals gave me a headache after hearing them on every single song, but all told were a very powerful weapon for this solo songwriter to add depth and set different moods on the album. I know most of you will laugh and not take this review seriously, but do give Mr. Day a try. I promise you, he is legit.