In the video for his single “Dark Times (Brothers and Sisters),” Daniel Tortoledo makes his aesthetical interests as a singer/songwriter perfectly clear to the audience, and following in the footsteps of John Denver is definitely not on his agenda (no offense to JD, of course). Tortoledo is chasing the ghosts of Waits and Dylan here, and his path is taking him down a much darker road than some folk-rockers would be willing to take these days. Primed to make an impact on a generation that hasn’t had a lot of gothic harmonies in their Americana is his debut album Through out These Years, which I’m ranking as one of the best in its genre to hit record store shelves in the last two years.
There’s a very eclectic vibe to the whole tracklist in Through out These Years, but nothing is particularly scattered or unfocused. In the strutting “Give Me Soul” and lethargic title track the same, we’re invited into the personality of Daniel Tortoledo without any sort of filtration to come between us and his harshest of commentarial verses, and never does it seem as though we’re listening to a random hodgepodge of material. Everything here is very meticulous, right down to the structure of the simplest melodies.
Tortoledo uses a fantastic instrumental pressure to build up the tension in “Eloise,” “Bottle of Wine,” “Spare Time” and “Dark Times (Brothers in Sisters)” without having to get synthetic with thee harmonies, and nowadays, that’s unfortunately worth a round of applause. Where so many of his contemporaries would have taken the easy way out of this sonic puzzle, this guy is actually chipping away at a half hour’s worth of texture one scathing strand of poetry at a time. His patience is something, but moreover, so is his commitment to quality.
One thing that doesn’t come in ample supply in Through out These Years is catharsis – if I’m being perfectly honest, this is generally one of the tensest folk-rock efforts I’ve heard in 2019 or 2020. Introspection is definitely one of the key themes in the lyrics featured here, but it’s just as much an implied factor in the music itself as well. This is perhaps the best way for a guarded singer/songwriter to relate to us or, on a deeper level, it could be a basic premise of introduction that will inevitably pave the way for something grander in size and creative scale in the future.
Daniel Tortoledo’s debut album isn’t without a couple of completely excusable surface flaws, but overall it’s a brilliant effort from an artist with some sincerely amazing potential. One of the best elements in Through out These Years is its anti-pretentiousness, and in the alternative folk genre, that too is becoming rather difficult to find on a regular basis anymore. Here, Tortoledo isn’t pushing his luck with an audience unsure of who to trust anymore – he’s playing it safer than some and far more experimental than others, with the balance in between leaving us with some legitimately unforgettable moments.
by Bethany Page