We have been anticipating Daley's debut album, Days & Nights, for some time now, especially after hearing that he had been in the studio with man-of-the-moment Pharrell Williams and the ever-reliable Questlove. Well now the wait is finally over, and Days & Nights is available in full, but was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no.
The first "problem" with this album, and Daley's releases in general, is their somewhat confused nature. Back in 2011 he released his introductory EP, Those Who Wait, which wowed audiences with its mix of catchy original tunes and well thought out covers. The track that gained most traction was his collaboration with fellow Brit Marsha Ambrosius on "Alone Together," and, understandably, that track popped up again on his 2012 EP of the same name. What I can't quite fathom is why it's been dragged out yet again for his 2014 debut album. Similarly "Blame The World" also appeared on his 2012 EP and, rather unfortunately, proves to be a highlight of Days & Nights, a project that has had a further two years to be refined and polished. The inclusion of these earlier songs wouldn't necessarily be an issue except for the fact that, apart from one or two songs, they are the only real standouts on an album that sounds like it's been cobbled together from the cutting room floors of John Newman and Emeli Sandé.
Thankfully the album opens with one of those exceptions. "Time Travel," a more pop take on James Blake, is lyrically, vocally and musically strong but probably not punchy enough to open the set. The Pharrell-produced "Look Up" is up next and it's another solid effort showcasing Daley's lithe falsetto and Pharrell's talent for crafting a real earworm of a track, but, sequenced as it is here before "Blame The World," it's shown up as a bit flat. As already mentioned, "Blame The World" is a definite highlight, both for those new to Daley and those already familiar with the song. The soaring strings and driving drum beat are combined with what is possibly Daley's best vocal and a writing credit from hit-machine Andrea Martin certainly helps this track go off with a bang.
"Good News" completely fails to live up to its predecessor and could quite easily have been left off the album. Unfortunately the same can be said for "Pass It On," the melody for which I swear I've heard before but can't pinpoint, the Sandé-lite ballad "Love Somebody" and the completely forgettable title track. Daley somewhat redeems himself with "Be" and "She Fades," the former being the closest thing to bedroom jam (if you can overlook some of the rather cliched lyrics) and the latter once again showing why, even when the material on offer is a little safe, Daley always delivers vocally. Current UK single "Broken" is one of the strongest examples of Daley's new material and is right on the money stylistically, but every time I hear it I instantly think of the aforementioned Newman and Sande, both whom have done similar tracks, only better.
It's not all bad news, though. Daley has proved he has a talent for reworking the hits of others, as he has shown on covers of Amy Winehouse's "Love Is A Losing Game," Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" and Madonna's "Like A Virgin," so it's not a surprise that his cover of Joan Armatrading's "Love and Affection" is so deftly handled. While it lacks the power of the original, Daley does a good job of giving the song a modern R&B sheen, and it definitely has potential as a single. The fact that a cover ranks so highly amongst the 12 tracks on his debut gives some indication of what the issues are facing Daley. He co-wrote every track on the album, with the exception of "Love and Affection," and it's the writing that seems to let this project down. Fellow co-writers Pharrell, Marsha Ambrosius and Andrea Martin give rise to the album's stronger moments so maybe Daley needs to refine his writing and/or call in outside talent for future releases. After all, he has proved on Days & Nights and his prior EPs that he definitely has no issue on the vocal front.