Album Walkthrough: Texan force Dayglow breaks down his new record, Harmony House
The triple threat's second album captures the highs and lows of fame, as lived by the singer-songwriter-producer.
Nestled amongst his Texan home studio is 21-year-old Sloan Struble, a musician who is quickly blossoming into one of the future's most exciting, if not most talented. Under his Dayglow alias, the Austin-based musician has already grappled with a breakthrough moment; his 2019-released debut album Fuzzybrain being an exploration through adulthood that fuelled an early sense of virality in Can I Call You Tonight?, a charming near-five-minute-long single that quickly threw Struble into the depths of musical success and the fame that it brings.
Since then, Struble has been dealing with the trials and tribulations of fame amongst a global pandemic and further self-discovery; the convoluted thoughts and feelings from his experiences weaselling their way into the music he was creating as Dayglow - quite naturally too, considering Struble is the project's sole singer, songwriter, producer and mixer. "All of the songs are deeply personal to me, and explore the highs and lows of experiencing success and having so much sudden attention given to me," he says.
He's talking about his sophomore album Harmony House, which amongst 11 tracks of nostalgia-driven indie-pop, sees Dayglow attempt to navigate the peaks and valleys of fame through his own experiences, and the acute songwriting and storytelling that allows him to make a spectacle out of it. Each song is a reflection on change presented in a different way, musically inspired by late-night sitcoms and 80s pop music but varied in its wide-ranging versatility, from the songs that flourish with a funkier-like energy to those more indie-adjacent.
"I have been listening to pretty much strictly 70s and 80s pop music (James Taylor, Micheal McDonald, Christopher Cross, Whitney Houston, Paul Simon, etc) and I was drawn to the feelings and general optimism that pop music held at that time," he says. "I want the album to feel like a modern, independent take on a hit 80’s album, yet I also want the album to feel like it was literally found in your dad’s dusty record collection in the attic."
Harmony House fills that vision, and perhaps most importantly, it's a record that builds on the introduction Struble brought with his debut record two years ago. While his debut navigated growing up, Harmony House shows how these lessons and learnings have aided him in the time since, and the self-realisations you learn when you get out there and experience life - let alone being thrown into the depths of it, grappling with a sense of fame and virality when your musical project takes off.
Across the 35-odd minutes that Harmony House spans, Struble dives into many of the complexities he's reflected on within the last few years, with an intricacy that feels like somewhat of a testament to his well-connected mind. The album-opener Something toys with social media, while December is littered with pandemic realisations, as the musician was faced with uncertainty after having his victory lap of a tour pulled out from beneath him. There are moments of romanticism and Twin Peaks nostalgia nestled within there too, before Like Ivy - the album's finale - ties it all together, leaving you feeling more in-touch with yourself, let alone the life of Dayglow as a musician and more generally, as a person.
"Memories can sometimes blur together, and to sonically represent this, there is a melodic theme/motif that appears in almost every track of the album to tie the stories together," he mentions, adding further complexities to Harmony House. "There are so many ways to reflect on 'a time in your life', and the melody serves as a constant throughout everything I have been through in the past few years. That really comforts me."
Dive into the album below, and underneath, read through Dayglow's dissection of Harmony House, as he breaks down its themes, creation and inspiration one track at a time - it's quite a read:
I was scrolling through Instagram one day, and I was thinking about how dumb social media gets sometimes, and how materialistic and advertisement driven our culture’s identity statement is becoming. The line “if what makes you someone is something, then why can’t I have mine?” sums that up pretty well. Stuff is never going to fulfill us, yet we are always wanting more and more and it’s just such an unfortunate waste of time.
People always act like they are victims of time, but we have to make the most of the time we have. It’s so hard to see that considering how distracted everyone is by their own little curated echo-chambers of media and content. “Time won’t take nothing, believe me it’s you that takes the time.”
I made Something in one day. It was musically inspired by David Byrne. I wanted the song to feel rushed and overstimulating— layers piling onto each other until it became a wall of noise in under 2 minutes— but also sound like catchy, pop music. Something really is a catchy, fun song, but it also is a statement about our culture and how much we love and put our identity in stuff that doesn’t have the ability to love us back. It’s honestly really concerning.
Something is the opening track of my 2nd LP, Harmony House, and sets the tone of the sonic and lyrical maturity of the album following my debut album, Fuzzybrain, which analyzes isolation, the strangeness of growing up, and the optimistic tone that I believe there is still hope to experience in this world if we fight against the noise.
Medicine was the first song I wrote for Harmony House. I remember feeling like I had cracked into something new— it felt so different than anything else I had ever written before, and that got me super stoked. Soon after writing it, I had a clear vision and ability to channel all of the “Yacht Rock” music I had been listening to— Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, etc —into my own personal production/writing style. It was so fun to make and start a new album with. It felt so fresh and exciting to be exploring a genre and era I didn’t see many other artists doing around me. It forced me to make the music more personal, and to really challenge myself as a songwriter and producer to create a new world.
December was the last song I wrote on Harmony House during a time that I was feeling very low and confused. My entire tour had just been cancelled, and I felt idle and unsure of what to do with my time.
One day, when I was looking through some books at my parent’s house, I found an old poem book that was my great grandmothers. Inside one chapter dealing with “change”, there was one that said, “so my friend you just remember— every year has it’s December.” That really impacted me and helped me process the season I was in, and I soon wrote December in about 30 minutes sitting at my Wurlitzer electric piano. I think it is my favorite song on the album, because it’s completely personal. I wasn’t trying to make it for anyone other than myself, so it turned out to be pretty unique. It’s definitely helped me on a few confusing days since making it!
Close To You
When I first started making Close to You, I had been listening to a lot of Whitney Houston, Patti Labelle, Micheal McDonald, etc at the time. There is just a certain danceable yet melancholy feeling about 80’s pop duets that I wanted to channel into. Close to You was intended to be performed as a duet, but ended up essentially being a duet with myself (which makes sense in the context of the lyrics).
The song itself is about the tension between two people at a party that never said hello. It’s about the excitement and perfect fantasy you play in your head prior to seeing that person, the mediocre and nervous reality of the actual moment you see them, and the let down that always comes afterwards it not being what had always and only been living in your head. I envision the song being played inside someone's brain— kind of like the movie Inside Out - after they are leaving a party, thinking about what they wish would have happened. But in reality, they are actually just singing to and about themselves.
Crying on the Dancefloor
Crying on the Dancefloor was the greatest challenge to make on Harmony House — it’s definitely the song I mixed the most. It’s the biggest statement piece and referential song on the album for sure, so I wanted to make sure every detail was how I wanted it to feel. I love when songs are melancholy (happy instrumental, introspective/sad lyrics), so I had always wanted to write a song called “crying on the dancefloor”. I was listening to a lot of Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby at the time, and I loved the piano playing style and digital sampling sound on some of their hits like The Way It Is and End of Innocence. I wanted to replicate that as much as I could. I feel pretty proud of how it turned out. It’s one of my favorites for sure, but I have heard it way too many times by now.
I started Into Blue by wanting there to be a musical outro of Crying on the Dancefloor. I imagine Crying on the Dancefloor being at a party, and then Into Blue is the introspective night-time drive home. I love the show Twin Peaks, and I wanted to channel that introspective melancholy in the track. It also sits right in the middle of the album on purpose. I think there are just so many transitional emotions piled into the song— it feels like a sad breath of fresh air; it’s kind of a paradox. It’s like learning to let go, but not feeling like you have emotionally yet. It’s totally a personal song for me and always feels very special in context to the whole record (especially the melodic motif at the end).
I wrote Moving Out all in one sitting at my Wurlitzer electric piano. I was currently actually moving out of my apartment, and realized how metaphorical and transitional moving out is. I felt at the time I was moving out of more than a place, but actually a season of life. I was changing so much and learning how to manage everything all at once. I remember just like looking up and realizing I had written the song— it just came out of me so quickly and naturally.
Musically the song is very inspired by James Taylor's album, That’s Why I’m Here. That’s one of my favorite albums and I was listening to it non-stop when I wrote Moving Out. It kind of feels like it should be on that album in my mind to be honest. I’ll always be able to remember so much about that time in my life because of how crazy it all was— it’s a super personal song.
Woah Man is one of my favorite songs I’ve written so far.
I initially wrote it for a friend who was going through a hard time, but then later realized that I was really writing about myself. In the middle of so much change, growth, and responsibility, I found myself feeling a lot of pressure. After months of feeling like I had the world on my shoulders and that I was growing up too fast, I realized that in order to grow, you have to move on sometimes. You have to let some things go. And for me, what I needed to let go of was the feeling of being in control of everything. I had to let go of holding on (very meta, I know). I just remember finishing the song and feeling so much relief and clarity about who I am becoming. The song has continued to help me through so many different stages of growth in my life— I hope it does the same for you.
I wrote Strangers at a pretty low point. I didn’t even try to write it to be honest. I remember sitting in my studio with a heavy sense of loneliness, and I had writers block for a few weeks. I had just gotten back from my first two tours, and was just going through a lot of relational changes, and I felt so much pressure from everything going on in my world. I just sort of broke down. It was one of those songs that just happens without trying. It wasn’t my plan to share it with anyone, let alone put it on the record. It felt way too vulnerable. A few months later I shared it with one of my best friends, and he kind of realized so much about me and everything I was going through in that moment— I’ll never forget it. I realized that if I wanted to be honest as an artist, I had to be vulnerable, too. I want people to know that I go through hard stuff too, and life is like that sometimes. I still feel nervous sharing the song, but I know that it is helping people process their emotions positively too, so there is no greater thing I could do as an artist as that.
Like Ivy is the outro of the record totally on purpose. Strangers is kind of the emotional climax of the record, and like Ivy is the ultimate sense of closure following it. Like Ivy is the final breath of fresh air, and the sun coming out of the clouds. All of Harmony House is essentially me dealing with sudden change in my life, and learning how to be myself fully, but also be an artist. I’m slowly learning how to deal with the overwhelming nature of my position currently in an honest, humble way. Like Ivy is my way of closing the chapter of Anxiety in my life, and learning how to grow up and let go of wanting to be in control of my fate. I learned that it’s okay to not know everything.
The first track on the record, Something, is like the essence of quickly rising to fame and feeling so overwhelmed by it. During the outro I say “It’s taking time, it’s taking time” over and over— like I can’t even get the words out of what I’m trying to say. Like Ivy on the other hand though, is like the completion of the sentence. It says “It’s taken time to realize maybe I might be someone else inside your mind”. Writing it gave me so much peace and helped me emotionally move to my next chapter in life. I hope you can sense its place in my life, the record, and hopefully your life as well!