Daniel Johnston – Is and Always Was Album Review


On his latest album, Daniel Johnston forsakes the very sound that has come to define him; swapping his four-track and slapdash instrumentation for a studio, a fellow Beatles nut (Jason Falkner) and full band. It’s a bold move, likely to alienate some, but if anyone’s earned their day in the sun, it’s Johnston. The results are at times terrific. Somewhat surprisingly, Johnston thrives in his role of band leader, sounding dominant and more tuneful than ever. There’s a palpable Fab Four influence throughout, as well as thick psychedelic gauze (the Syd Barrett-esque title track is one of the highlights). Peel away the layers, though, and this is unmistakably his own work. Queenie the Dog sounds like one of the troubled troubadour’s cartoons brought to song; there are the familiar themes of love (Mind Movies), death (Freedom) and frustration (High Horse) and trademark candid lyricism. But with contemporary tools at his disposal, this is perhaps Johnston’s most singular and cohesive piece of music to date.

4/5

Written for The Skinny

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