Yeah okay, I did plan on just doing a review of Haggis’ latest solo album Brightly Coloured Creatures but truth is, I couldn’t with a healthy conscience ignore the other work that he’s strived to make. Now I’ve written a review of his solo album Circadian Circus which if you missed you should definitely check that out, but I think (especially right now) with the state of the world and how disproportionately it’s affected the livelihoods of musicians, I think it’s only right to share with you even more of Haggis’ work, give him the rightly deserved streams he deserves. So to focus on Sunship Balloon’s Everywhen (his 2020 album with Tord Øverland Knudsen) and of course his very recent follow up to his 2017 solo album, here’s why we love Dan Haggis.
Obviously, anyone who’s anyone has heard of The Wombats, and if you’re someone with taste you’ll know the absolute passion that goes into making those albums and how brilliant they are, but when it comes to making music outside of that well-established name, Dan gets even more of a chance to show off his skills. Whether you’re falling in love with his solo work for something painfully relatable to, or getting an escape through the space journey of Sunship Balloon, there is absolutely everything to fall in love with.
With 2020’s Everywhen, Haggis and Knudsen created an album full of futuristic sounds coincided with analogue 80s synths, all which whisk you away into an alternate reality to ponder life’s most curious questions. When I first listened to Everywhen I immediately felt some sort of instrumental connection to like likes of The 1975, but even more so to the legendary Brian Eno, the ambient instrumental tracks especially that just change your perspective of the world, sounding like they could have been taken straight off one of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy records or an album like Eno and Robert Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. It just makes for such a surreal listening experience (a crime that it’s not available on vinyl really) and you can just really hear the fun that went into making this record.
The entire album is perfect, there are so many amazing tracks to choose, from the electronic rock blaster that is Interstellar Ride, 1224 Fantasia which just desires to be played on a show like Top Of The Pops back in 1985, to the more experimental Eno inspired tracks such as title track Everywhen and the albums closer Flat Earther’s that really does sound like it belongs with the likes of Neuköln on Bowie’s Heroes. The energetic anthem A4 Life is superb though, it’s here where you can really hear some of those familiar Wombats and even some of Knudsen’s other band Imitating Aeroplanes vibes (I mean why wouldn’t you), but all the same completely turned on their heads to create a sound that’s so presently fresh but heartwarmingly nostalgic.
Glossing over Sunship Balloon and now moving to Brightly Coloured Creatures, after working on Everywhen, Dan The Man’s third solo outing definitely takes some of those 80’s sounds and finds a wonderful home within his new music. Circadian Circus was a brilliant album, but Brightly Coloured Creatures is completely its successor. Everything that was brilliant about the 2017 venture has been put on steroids and increased tenfold. The songwriting, melodies and production have all stepped up and each track is uniquely warm. Thematically it does continue a lot of similar themes that of Circadian Circus, but perhaps a little more universal than the depth into Haggis’ soul that we were exposed to with the last album.
Muscle Memory kicks off the album in such a flawless way, being ever so reminiscent of his previous release, but with bigger everything. Genuinely feels like it’s the opening track to a film, it gives meaning to whatever you could be doing when listening to it, making a cuppa? That cuppa’s DEEP now. Young Lovers the albums second track and first single is where you can really hear how much musical progression Haggis has developed since 2017, sounding more like the kind of track you’d hear off Everywhen but because of that oh so personal touch Haggis effortlessly shines over his lyrics, you know exactly where this track truly belongs.
This album, like its brother, is absolutely perfect and every track is a real gem. From blissful melancholy meanders like Obsolete and Earthmover, which are such beautifully constructed tracks, and the line “Can we just go back and reset it all, Now we’re obsolete” is just *chef kiss*, who hasn’t felt like that at some point? And especially after the year we’ve just been through (yeah happy anniversary to that by the way) it’s such a poignant practice that Haggis just nails every time. It sounds like something you’d find on a Beach House record and is absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the breakdown in Obsolete, which is fantastic. Shaping this woeful helplessness into offset anger mixed with motivation, drenching the line “Swallow the pill” in reverb the way some use medication to put a damper on depression, man Haggis you absolute genius.
See You In Hell is such a tasty track, coming out of nowhere as this almost doo-wop inspired song, albeit with a lot of other influences clearly thrown in the mix, it’s a faster, more energetic and textured sound, evoking vibes of Richard Hawley‘s work and Arctic Monkey’s Suck It And See album. Just magnificent.
Another one of my personal favourites, Unravelling combines so much sonic identity it’s hard to pin it down, but I mean it sounds like Dan The Man so what more could you want? The combined acoustic and spacey lead guitar, and as always Haggis’ vocals are simply a delight here. Lyrically the tracks about DNA, which with the “unravelling” hook makes a lot of sense, but I think the substance behind that goes way beyond where your mind initially registers with it. I think there have been times where we’ve all felt like our very being is “unravelling”, stuck in the fragmentation of crisis and rebirth, along with the prospect of the unknown, and I think this song defines those feelings. I mean it’s either that or it’s a song about DNA but take your pick.
Brightly Coloured Creatures is already one of my favourite records of the year, and we’re only in February. That’s not me being ignorant in the face of what an entire year’s worth of music might bring to my attention, but a statement that Dan Haggis is one of the brightest musicians of our time and I think that goes without saying. Tracks like Memory Lane, Let Me Down and Obsolete are just streamlined perfection and you absolutely must go and listen to the whole album as soon as you can.
I’ll leave you with Peter Pan, a track off Dan’s first solo album which is equally brilliant as both the albums we’ve been over today. Enjoy its festive vibe and take aboard the backlog of music you’ve now got to bathe in. For fan’s of Dan The Man, the music’s going nowhere, and there’s plenty to go around.
Check out Sunship Balloon’s discography here,
And check the rest of Dan’s solo work here.