The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Howie Day’s sophomore album a success

Ryan Rafferty | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Once upon a time, music was original, momentous and emotional. Listeners used to interact with the music and connect with the artists. Where did music go wrong? A few years ago, singer/songwriters appeared to be leading the charge against empty, meaningless music, but then music snobs everywhere began to quickly criticize these artists. Musicians such as John Mayer, David Gray and Dave Matthews started to receive negative reviews due to their increasing mass popularity; this was an extremely unfair criticism. Likewise, Howie Day’s latest release Stop All the World Now has received several negative criticisms which are equally unjust.

Howie Day’s last release, Australia, was also his debut album. Australia introduced the world to the extremely talented 17-year-old singer/songwriter. Shortly after his first release, Day began to gain acclaim for his incredible live performances. He played every show entirely solo using complex loops to simulate the sound of a full band, including drums and bass. Epic quickly signed Day to their label and thus he created Stop All the World Now.

Like many singer/songwriters before him, this album gained negative reviews because of its mass pop appeal. While Day’s latest release does have a structured pop sound, it is nothing like the numerous pop songs on the radio today. Howie Day sings with so much emotion and sincerity on Stop All the World Now that he could easily be mistaken for a veteran musician. But surprisingly this is only the second album from Day, now 23, and what an album it is.

Stop All the World Now is like a snapshot of Howie Day’s life. His lyrics are very poignant and personal, and his music, while much more heavily produced than Australia, is magnificent. Day’s simple guitar patterns balance the album wonderfully between electronic songs, conventional pop songs and simple piano-driven ballads. Even on the electronic songs, like the single “Perfect Time of Day,” Day’s guitar drives the melody and adds wonderful texture to the chorus. Other conventional pop songs, such as “Brace Yourself” and “Collide,” feature Day at his finest. While on Australia Day was primarily found playing only acoustic guitar, on Stop All the World Now he opens up the sound immensely by playing with an entire band.

Day also tries his hand at another instrument on Stop All the World Now: the piano. The two later tracks, “End of Our Days” and “Come Lay Down,” have a different feel as the piano drives the melody accompanied by a wonderfully mixed orchestra. The addition of strings is another new addition to Day’s music. Nearly every song on Stop All the World Now features some sort of string arrangement, which gives the songs wonderful texture and depth. Something else Day does differently is the re-recording of some of his earlier material. Day called the Australia version of “She Says” a demo acoustic version. He completely revamps the song, adding a subtle electronic drum beat, electric guitar, bass and a gently brushed drum kit. The new version of the song sounds much fuller and majestic. Day also re-records “You and a Promise,” which appeared on his last EP. The song hasn’t changed drastically, except the melody is now played primarily on the piano rather than guitar.

Overall, this is a beautiful album that is easily accessible from any musical standpoint. Critics may discredit Day for making such a mainstream pop album, but nobody can deny the intensity with which he plays. The songs on Stop All the World Now are very pop-oriented, but they are vastly different from the music normally played on the radio. The verses plunge the listener into Day’s world with his tender lyrics. His choruses explode with a catchy melody with so many layers that it engulfs the listener’s senses. Stop All the World Now is a wonderful album, and Howie Day is a masterful pop singer/songwriter. Everyone will love this album from the pop music guru to the indie music aficionado.

Contact Ryan Rafferty at rraftert@nd.edu