Joseph Arthur: Nuclear Daydream

By Sarah Moore

After being in the music scene for a decade with the help of Peter Gabriel and his label, Real World Records, Joseph Arthur has produced a disc of complex pop. It’s the first album on his own label [Lonely Astronaut Records]. Arthur plays most of the instruments, pressing his seal into his signature sound. Equal parts modern electronic and bare acoustic, Nuclear Daydream spans the pop and folk genres.

Arthur fuses gritty, acoustic guitar with synth and looping techniques to create multilayered compositions. One mood drifts into another with a dark edge. His use of theremin in “Electrical Storm” brings a sense of magic and infinity to the fold. Beginning with soft guitar and vocals, the song subtly fleshes out into an otherworldly, existentialist lullaby. Standout track “You Are Free” exhibits how the exceptional can be found in simple things, where Arthur’s basic harmonies and lyrics haunt your ears well after the song ends.

While he channels other artists like Beck [on “Too Much to Hide”], U2, and the rhythmic swagger of Blur‘s “Coffee and TV” [on “Enough to Get Away”], Arthur also offers an original voice. On Daydream Arthur opts for diversity in his songwriting formula. He’s not afraid to explore finer, soft sounds as well as heavy, thick tones. He embraces his falsetto just as openly as his natural baritone, and he keeps the instrumentation to a minimum. He does not feel a need to overfill everything, adding just the right amount of harmonica accents and simple drumbeats. What stands out is Arthur’s versatile songwriting ability that ranges from the effervescent, Christian rock of “Don’t Tell Your Eyes” to co-dependent love ballad “Woman.”

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