In his fourth single, pop/rock singer/songwriter Dan Ashley turns lonesome isolation blues into an optimistic pop melody that just about anybody can get into this fall. Titled “We Stayed Home,” the track features some of the smokier vocals I’ve personally heard from Ashley thus far in his career, and though he isn’t necessarily changing the standard he set forth for himself in the debut “What Really Matters,” he’s proving himself to be quite the consistent player just the same. “We Stayed Home” is an uplifting and ultimately simple pop tune, and these days, it’s the kind of cocktail you don’t come across all that often in the mainstream.
As much as the vocal harmony has a habit of stealing the spotlight in Dan Ashley’s music, the beat we encounter in this single is actually as infectious and undeniably bright as anything in the frontend of the mix. There’s not a lot of oomph in the bassline, but with the sort of physicality the drums are affording the rhythm beneath the verses our leading man is spewing from behind the mic, there doesn’t need to be any. One of the best things about “We Stayed Home” is its weightiness, and moreover, how efficiently that weight has been distributed.
The electric guitar parts here have a lot of gloss – arguably a little more than they actually needed to achieve the same result when everything is said and done – but I think this was somewhat required to highlight just how much warmth they’re giving the instrumental fabric collectively. We’re getting a really natural, unforced finish out of “We Stayed Home” that’s anything but typical of the contemporary pop/rock status quo in studio recordings at the moment, and it isn’t entirely because of the minimalist approach to the mixing board.
Contrary to the electric element, the acoustic guitar in this track is a bit indulgent for my taste, but I can understand the purpose of giving it as much of a presence in the big picture here as Ashley inevitably allowed. In order to create as multilayered a feel as possible, there has to be some level of grandiosity in the foundations of the hook in “We Stayed Home,” and to this end, he was only doing what the conventions of the genre have called for since the beginning. It’s an excusable flaw by any measurement, and definitely nothing powerful enough to dampen the song’s effect as a whole.
Dan Ashley doesn’t really break any new ground in “We Stayed Home”, but instead shows us a consistency and artistic focus that is hardly on par with what one would expect out of the American underground’s average players in 2020. He’s working with a skillset a lot of his peers could only wish to have been blessed with, and whether he’s breaking off similarly-stylized content to what we’ve heard prior to now or experimenting with the parameters of his sound, his talents and what he’s chosen to do with them have my endorsement without question.
by Bethany Page