- Betsy Schlehuber
Dayglow's Decline: People In Motion | Album Review
Updated: 19 hours ago
Review of Dayglow's album "People In Motion" | Betsy Schlehuber
On November 12, I attended Dayglow’s People in Motion tour in Raleigh, North Carolina with my friend. It was one of the best concerts I had been to; everyone danced to our favorite songs with such electric energy. But something I noticed was that even though most of the setlist contained songs from “People In Motion,” Dayglow’s most recent album release, the crowd wasn’t nearly as receptive to those songs as they were to songs off the albums “Fuzzybrain” and “Harmony House.” The only exception to that was the over enthusiastic boy standing right next to me – or should I say jumping up and down right next to me? This reaction from the crowd didn’t surprise me in the slightest. In fact, I was a part of that response and I have been since “People In Motion” came out on October 7.
Dayglow, also known as Sloan Struble, shot to fame after the release of “Can I Call You Tonight?,” when the single became popular, primarily due to TikTok. Following that and other singles, Dayglow released his debut album, “Fuzzybrain” in 2018. After riding the “Fuzzybrain” fame train for a couple of years, Dayglow started releasing singles for his sophomore album “Harmony House” in early 2021. The four singles mirrored the sound of the preceding album and I remember looking forward to this album quite a bit, especially with the positive feedback from the public on the first single, “Close to You.” When the album came out on May 21, 2021, I was impressed at first. Dayglow stuck to his original sound of upbeat, synthy type songs that covered less than positive experiences while expanding on sonic possibilities with the second half of the album. The last few songs of “Harmony House” were slower and allowed the listener to live in the deeper topics. I remember enjoying the second half of the album but knowing there was something about it that was weaker than the first half. Dayglow kept the lyrical style of the slower songs the same as the upbeat songs, which ended up making the slower songs seem sillier. Lyrics such as “What in tarnation is going on?” appearing in the last track, “Like Ivy,” would’ve fit in in with the first half of the album, but since the lyric was displayed without a plethora of instruments clouding it, it appeared weaker. Also, some of the slower songs were forgettable in a way that slower title track “Fuzzybrain” from 2018 could never be. I’m not saying “Harmony House” was a bad album, nor that it was a sophomore slump, but I could already see Dayglow’s decline approaching.
With the birth of “People In Motion,” my suspicions were proven correct. This album was my first encounter with Dayglow’s discography where I didn’t immediately save most of the songs to a “faves” playlist. Even after six full listens, the album just didn’t do it for me, which is shocking considering there was no massive sonic change nor theme change from previous records. I would even go as far to say “People In Motion” was boring. It was the same synths over and over again with forgettable melodies and fake-deep lyrics. According to the unreviewed Genius page for the album, Struble said the title “People In Motion” is supposed to mean people dancing and “America’s quickly paced culture.” There are also a couple love songs on this album dedicated to his wife, Reagan. I have to admit that this album is very danceable even if the lyrics and repetitive instruments disappointed me. That’s probably why at the concert people weren’t really singing along but instead dancing everytime Dayglow performed a “People In Motion” song. But some of the melodies that I criticized from only hearing the studio versions sounded much better in a live setting. The choral melodies for songs like “Deep End” and “Stops Making Sense” just sounded better coming straight from Struble to the audience in a way that I can’t fully explain. From this angle, I recognize Struble’s goals for this album. He didn’t want to stay in the bedroom pop bubble, but also realized that he needed to retain at least a bit of his original sound in order to keep fans loyal. With this release, he attempted to address societal issues through the danceable synths that he is well known for. But it came off in a pretentious way.
My biggest example of Struble exemplifying pretentiousness was in the second track, “Radio” with a message that said the radio is the best form of media consumption if you want to slow down and take it easy in this world. Struble sings about how you don’t need to watch a video in order to consume the radio, you just need to drive home while the world around you is spinning too fast. This song is where the title gets a shoutout and it’s when Struble realizes that our way of life is unsustainable and needs to be simplified. While I agree with Struble, I feel like he could’ve driven that message home without suggesting in the first verse that the radio is the only form of music consumption that contains “rock and roll on a real guitar.” Also, in the second verse of “Stops Making Sense,” Struble sings, “And I saw the strangest thing last night, yeah, there were all of these people and none of them thinking and none of them strangely seemed to mind, oh man, it really freaked me out.” I get what he was trying to say, but he also comes off as extremely judgmental and holier than thou. My impression was that he was bragging about being “enlightened” and that just didn’t sit right with me. If you’re really going to convince people that the world is moving too fast for us to enjoy, don’t knock people who are victims of the fast world in the process – it’s counterproductive. But alas, I really agree with his sentiment. I just wish it was carried out more empathetic and with better lyrics that didn’t sound completely like stereotypical bedroom pop lyrics.
I think in order to really enjoy this album, you have to see it live and experience it with other people in motion. But most audiences won’t get that opportunity, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, so it was really crucial for this album to hit hard from home – which it did not do. It was pretentious, forgettable, and trying too hard. While this album fulfilled the first meaning of being danceable, it didn’t deliver the messages effectively. This criticism in no way means I don't respect Dayglow nor does it mean I will stop listening after “People In Motion.” I have a soft spot for Sloan Struble and I really hope he can grow in his lyrical ability and maintain the sound we love him for while not staying stagnant. The two songs from “People In Motion” that I genuinely loved were “Then It All Goes Away” and “Like She Does.” These songs had catchy, memorable melodies alongside wonderfully written lyrics. They sounded truly unique while staying within the original Dayglow sound. I hope the next album mirrors those two songs because I know Struble can do better outside of a concert setting.