Mike Blue has spent years toiling and dispensing civic vitally on the streets of Liverpool as a busker and on the final day of 2020, Blue released his follow-up to 2018’s The Demo Tapes in Dark Daze. Blue’s most journalistic and vexing set of songs yet.
The Jeff Buckley-inspired Before the Rapture opens up Dark Daze – a slow empty-pub-blues trope that projects the first of many dark snapshots.
I Felt an Ocean In My Brain sees Blue at his most comfortable. At times his voice shape shifts through Dark Daze with an uneasiness that rivals the subjects in which he writes about. But here, along with It’s Better to Be Blue and the beautiful cut that is Nana, this is Blue at ease with himself, unleashing an honesty that few of his local peers could replicate.
The heartbreaking House of Horrors is the darkest song Blue has written to date and the epi-centre of the album. It tells a story of the protagonist being caught in the crossfires between their parent’s relationship breakdown. Both Blue’s voice and the song itself is something, as strange as this sounds, Suede’s Brett Anderson could have written.
Nana feels like an uplifting contrast to House of Horrors. An earthy open-hearted journal entry of the past. It’s simply gorgeous, with Blue creating collages for the listener to think about similar pasts of their own.
“Some of us are born to be carried/But you were made to carry,” sings Blue on It’s Not Easy – a number backed by subtle female backing vocals which feature sporadically throughout Dark Daze. Here, there are slight echoes of Love Is Hell-era Ryan Adams.
Clocking in at over ten minutes, It’s Good to Have Friends is a pensive lonely-road traipse. The song writing here is Dylan-esque, no question, for no artist in Liverpool would dare go beyond the regimented three-and-a-half minutes with a cut like this.
And that’s Blue’s great accomplishment with Dark Daze. It’s an honest approach to song writing.
While it comes as advertised, having listened to Dark Daze first thing in the morning and it’s the kind of record that hangs like a dark cloud for the rest of your day. As depressing as that may sound, that’s the feeling listeners should garner from good song writing.
Arguably, Blue’s best work lies ahead, but the brutal honesty and unvarnished aesthetic suggests that Blue is writing music for nobody but himself, and it’s the best way to approach song craft, or any art for that matter.
For all its unevenness and ambition, Dark Daze is real in every sense.
Dark Daze is out now.