Daniel Wilson cried thunder

by Scott Wilson

Daniel Wilson suffers from an almost incurable disease, one that I suffer from as well, that is, having a too-common name. The too-common name is usually a two-part system, passed down from the parents: the last half often passes from the father and the first comes from thin air, but might have a story attached to it. Though it would be groundless speculation for me to discern the meaning of “Daniel Wilson” -the name- if there is any, it is, however, within my scope to describe, label, and praise the man’s latest work: The Boy Who Cried Thunder.

The Boy Who Cried Thunder is, in a word, dynamic. His main weapon is his voice, a mix of Stevie Wonder circa Secret Life of Plants and Cee Lo Green in Gnarles Barkley. His range is huge, rocketing to the highest falsetto then skydiving to a growl. The emotion is always yearning with an earnest desire to be heard, but said with a force that demands attention; every stanza before a break is punctuated with a yell.

But to say that The Boy Who Cried Thunder is a singular exploration of a beautiful voice would be a discredit to its production.

“These are days when no one should rely unduly on his ‘competence.’ Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed” –Walter Benjamin

Each song of the EP feeds from a different source, and Daniel Wilson’s voice adapts to fit the mood. For instance, the second track, “If You Went Away,” is an epic, complete with horns and strings and a rising chorus, with Wilson’s voice at the head of the vanguard. Conversely, “Killed Ya,” is peppered with suspicions of doo-wop (check out “Poison Ivy” by The Coasters to see what I mean) but his voice compliments the old-school motif, boosted by the whizzing electronic noise machines in the background that keep the song contemporary.

Lyrically, The Boy Who Cried Thunder is about love, heartbreak, etc. No points for originality in the subject matter but the lyrics are clear and natural, no forced rhymes or cheesy couplets. Though I do grow tired of EPs composed entirely of love/heartbreak songs, The Boy Who Cried Thunder is nuanced in that throughout a song he can go from love to longing to misery (in no particular order) without warning. To that end, sad lyrics are sometimes said in an upbeat tone, and sometimes happy lyrics are said in a tone of desperation. This dichotomy between the sounds heard and the sounds interpreted make for an attention grabbing EP that can be listened to over and over, with a little more meaning dissected from each successive repeat.

The largest drawback of the too-common name is obscurity. Always at the end of any alphabetically arranged line, often mistaken for another in Google searches, the easiest victim of credit card fraud, us Wilsons with typical American first names fight the battle for notoriety from a compromised station. Nonetheless, The Boy Who Cried Thunder is a work of genuine skill and talent that sets Daniel Wilson apart.

 Stream the album here.