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Review: Daddy Lion 'Habitat'

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The title of Daddy Lion, a.k.a Jeremy Joseph’s, latest release Habitat may simply suggest a clever play on the singer/songwriter’s stage name. But a quick glance at the album cover, showing an outline of a man’s head with the Earth settled smack dab in the middle of his brain, hints that an exploration of the inner habitat is at hand, a territory that can be as treacherous than any wild kingdom.

“I want a purpose/I want to be in someone’s service,” he gushes in the upbeat album opener “Scientist’s Lament,” but by the second song, the aptly titled “Disconnected,” he’s already feeling insecure about the task at hand, at least in the love department. “Did I get through…or did you let go,” he asks. By the time track number three, “The Driver,” rolls around, Joseph is a driver on an alien road, following signs to an unknown place.

Wherever he’s headed, it’s sure as hell not Route 66. “Samsara,” mines the same territory as “Disconnected,” with couplets–”I should throw elbows/I throw you a rose,”; “I’m not on the offense/I’m impaled on a fence,”–made all the more brutal when sung alongside sweet genteel guitar strumming.

Habitat’s lyrical imagery is littered with references to shadows, the sun and moon, and how they can both illuminate and disguise the truth, while the album’s musical landscape is as blue as the deepest ocean. Somber downbeats and snare taps, muted bass, languid, fuzzy guitars and light touches of electronica all mix together to create a sound that can only be described as ambient dream pop.

The overall theme seems to be one of how idealism, be it for the world or in a relationship, often gives way to disappointment and disillusion. Marked by melancholy “oohs” and “aahs,” “Werewolf” finds the singer looking monstrous to the lover who won’t touch him, the outside world and himself. Things get even darker on “Survivor’s Guilt” a lament over a relationship’s or an actual lover’s demise. But judging from the lines “What’s the matter with you/What’s the matter with me/Shut my eyes/I still see,” spat out in a pained growl, both parties are feeling dead inside.

By the closing track, the jangly pop romp “No Solution, But Resolution,” he’s no closer to well, finding a resolution, raging at a materialistic, live-for-the moment culture blind to how its destroying the world, and clueless at how to find way out of the mess that is both modern society and himself. “I have a book of questions/I’m singing for your help,”are the words that end the album.

Not exactly a happy ending, is it? Though the lyrics to “Uranium-235″ offer a clue for this conundrum: “I’m a mass of desire/I cannot escape/My heart is an eternal fire /Asleep and awake.” The lines reveal the uncomfortable reality: that only by embracing humanity, both your own and others, with all its imperfections and contradictions, can you hope to understand your own habitat. Joseph provides a beautiful, thought-provoking backdrop for such inner revelations.

4/5

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