Published Nov 28, 2018Two releases this year simply could not satisfy the fertile mind of Daniel Romano, as Finally Free, his third LP of 2018, proves. Never has Romano preached his prose so fervently, treating song like sermon at times. These nine tracks — some somewhat nebulous, each one impassioned — act as further evidence that Romano is ever-changing, never still. It's a journey into Romano's mind that feels simultaneously spontaneous and calculated, soft in its travels as it speaks of time and what exists between dreams and reality.
There's a strong start to the record with "Empty Husk," a lush but lucid, delicate but dense tune with softly strummed guitar that eventually bursts into an explosive proclamation of "No more darkness, no more!" before returning to Earth. It's terribly satisfying — Romano has quite a handle on dynamism in music, given his past forays in heavier outfits (Attack in Black, Ancient Shapes), although intensity as such isn't quite revisited on the record. "All the Reaching Trims" (words that resurface in other songs) is equally beautiful, with fingerpicked guitar reminiscent of Bert Jansch, and an overwhelming warmth. The organ-driven "The Long Mirror of Time" (again, a revisited phrase) is one of Finally Free's most spirited, and one that Romano dedicates "to the freaks."
"Between the Blades of Grass" is arguably one of Romano's sweetest-penned melodies, with a gorgeous intro that speaks of being "liberated in the language of love" atop plucked piano and an intriguing creaking sound (floorboards? A door opening?) in the background. Charming backing vocals singing oohs and ahhs further sweeten the song's atmosphere — perhaps Romano had a heart full of love when he wrote this one. "Have You Arrival," the lengthiest song on the record, features more gorgeous guitar and harmonies. The repeated mantra of "Daylight! / A momentary fortune of gold" paired with the hiss of tambourine feels a tad exhausted after a while, though.
Throughout the record, Romano truly embraces mysticism in his lyrics, and throws the idea of form and structure out to sea. It can be overwrought at times, as Romano stretches the seams of certain songs with oft impenetrable lyrics and perhaps a surplus of instrumentation. At times it feels as though Romano is onto something that the humble listener must strain to understand, which can be intimidating or intriguing depending on the ears it falls upon.
One might think it all a bit self-indulgent, but isn't all art so? For Romano, who has always seemed calculated and sure in his craft, it is interesting to see him pursue the stream of consciousness that he clearly floated down as he made this record. Akin to, say Donovan in the '60s, Romano seems to have reached out to grab a cosmic hand that possessed him, and this record is the result.
How much freer can Romano and his music get? Time will tell, but its doubtful that his commitment to freedom will falter. (You've Changed)