Nerveless + Human Touch
You’ve Changed Records
Releasing two albums on the same day through Bandcamp may be something you would not expect from your average musician, but Daniel Romano is far from average and he is not so much a musician as he is an artist. Nerveless and Human Touch both appeared on his Bandcamp account with very little fanfare, but make no mistake, these albums are as strong as anything he has done and his lack of promotion is the only confusing aspect to this whole situation.
In all honesty, these needed to be two separate albums. The albums complement each other but the songs could not coexist in the same album space/format. Romano released an incredible album in May of 2017 (Modern Pressure) and toured extensively to promote that album, so when he had the time to write and record these albums may be a small mystery, as the albums feel complete, not rushed, and are well structured.
Both albums are available as download-only, which is a shame as they would both benefit from being on vinyl, especially Human Touch, which is the quieter of the two and features some interesting and moving vocal arrangements. The other problem with download-only is that there are no credits, so quite frankly I do not have the information as to who (if anyone) is playing with Romano or assisted in producing the albums.
Both albums are brilliant. Short, but brilliant. Again, because he is Daniel Romano, he does the unexpected. These do not sound like his Modern Pressure album or his side band, Ancient Shapes, but they are clearly Romano records. The fact is, they do not sound like anything he has previously released, which makes them all the more interesting. His voice is strong on both albums, and as usual he is able to write incredibly moving melodies to accompany the lyrics.
Nerveless is a more rock-based album, and upon first listening, I thought this album would not be out of place on FM radio circa 1973. This is not a criticism but a compliment to Romano, who is able to channel his influences and the history of rock into his own music and make it distinctly his own. There are many standout tracks, but one cannot help but smile with the most country/folk song on the album, “Digital Tears.” “Digital tears, moving quickly, streaming down,” sings Romano. You cannot help but admire his wordplay and brilliant arrangement to go along with this particular song.
Elsewhere, Nerveless is much harder sounding, with full band arrangements, and Romano gets to rock out without going punk (i.e. his Ancient Shapes project). The album is the perfect length and does not overstay its welcome. But musically, it is not so much a new side of Romano as a side one does not get to see often.
Human Touch is much quieter and sparser. Listen to “Lavender and Time,” a beautiful song, that takes about eight seconds before Romano comes in with a beautiful vocal and stunning musical arrangement to fit this gentle song. But the standout track, for me, is “The Old Marlay Park,” a beautiful song featuring some of Romano’s best-ever vocals. It is a moving tribute to an incredible piece of land near Dublin. Romano manages to tap into the vibe of traditional Irish music while maintaining his own style. When the full band comes in, it becomes something akin to a death march. Beautiful work.
Romano continues to do what he does best, and he almost always does the unexpected. I cannot imagine a major label supporting his moves between genres and styles, but then, that is what makes Romano a true artist. He follows his muse and his influences. Back in the 1970s, many artists went through similar changes and shifts in their music. In 2018, this is not the norm, nor is it always embraced. But Romano proves that by exploring music he is able to create interesting and brilliant music.
Both albums are essential and I for one am glad he made the decision to separate the two into two very distinct albums. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. A word of warning: Romano insists that these albums will be posted on Bandcamp only while he is touring. So if you want to delve into some great new music in 2018, you might want to act fast so you do not miss out.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: DANIEL ROMANO – NERVELESS + HUMAN TOUCH