Something big is coming, brewing anticipatory tension in the air, and we’re here to discuss it.
Four songs long, and four chords wide, the collection is Halaby’s (real name Daniel Rivas) latest musical accomplishment, shifting his perspective without compromising his originality or artistry. “I challenged myself to write these songs using only 4 chords,” he revealed. “The idea was to explore the kind of variety I could discover under these relatively drastic musical limitations.”
This decision was inspired by the legendary Brian Eno, but for Halaby, rather than this being a creative shift from a seconds long hook to much larger project, he is instead narrowing down to be able to apply hyper-focus into this set of songs, ones that follow his debut album, Bluish Purple, which had triple the number of tracks.
The result of this concentration is a cohesive musical tetrad, strong in foundation because of their similarities, but each also individually flaunting his creativity; in other words, he accomplished his goals. Fans of Bluish Purple will be happy to hear that Halaby still wields his blend of 80s synths with 90s rock elements and modern pop melodies, but is also entering new territory.
Opening track “Living it Up” gives an accurate preview of the anthology, effectively setting the upbeat, bubbly tone with its funky bassline and Beatles-esque chorus, complete with playful “do do dos.” “Treat Her Right” is a more laid-back sister to its predecessor, and while it is energetic in its percussion, the unhurried melody shows off Halaby’s vocal strength, a smooth control like running water over polished stones. The fun and vintage “When I Follow You Around” has an addictive looping riff which makes for a groovy, danceable addition to the EP, while “Pierce My Soul,” which sounds as delicate and free as if it’s floating through space, suspended in time, eases out the listener with his lullaby singing and fading instrumental.
For those wondering how he comes up with these unique arrangements, his writing process goes a little something like this: “[I] find a chord progression I can work with, ad-lib the vocal melody, bask in deeply rooted internal doubt, question my existence in the universe, find the motivation to complete the song, and revel in its awesomeness,” he told us when we spoke to him last August. “I’m not even really exaggerating. If the song can make it past the existential part of the process, I’m usually happy with the final product.”
Elephant in the Room was produced by Frankie Siragusa (the drummer for The Posies) at “theLAB,” his home studio. The two have also worked together alongside Kyle Falconer, with Halaby on bass and Siragusa, of course, on drums. The three of them, plus Alex Olesen on guitar, were featured on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio UK, one of Britain’s top stations. The group have another performance set to air on the BBC later this month. Keith Slettedahl, frontman for The-88, can be thanked for not only the artwork on this EP, but Bluish Purple and its two singles as well.