The Dan Coyle Wonder Thrills


The Dan Coyle Wonder Thrills

Perfect Word. Perfect Beat 

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Some people take circuitous routes to their calling. Despite having expressed himself creatively for longer, it wasn’t until 2008 when the public heard Dan Coyle begin performing for the first time. This New York City based singer/songwriter wrestles uncomfortably with the folk musician label, but his new EP Perfect Word Perfect Beat shows Coyle finding a comfortable middle ground between his traditional roots and the desire to rip them out and replant them elsewhere. The six songs don’t attempt remaking the wheel, but Coyle definitely defies convention on many and it makes for a more exciting listen. 

In some senses, the EP can be neatly divided into two halves. The first half begins with the opener “God I Miss You”, a pleasing shot of tasteful, understated guitar accentuated by banjo. The chorus builds up an admirable head of steam, but it’s ultimately not nearly as effective in conveying the song’s message as Coyle’s verbal twists and engaging phrasing in the verses. “Phase of the Moon” comes from a firmly traditionalist point of view, but it’s a sturdy song, well performed, and uses familiar imagery to movingly communicate with the listener. Coyle’s plaintive wail deepens the song immensely. It emphasizes another of Coyle’s strengths – his talent to create meaningful, yet accessible lyrics. “The Difference” starts as a lightly swinging solo performance with Coyle and his guitar but a quartet of backing singers brings a sweetening melodic touch to an otherwise unremarkable guitar track. The use of voice-over match Coyle’s light voice underneath is needless and brings nothing to the song.

It is foreshadowing. The next song, “Hey There Mama”, starts with gritty guitar, but Coyle’s voice soon enters with another voice-over narration juxtaposed against a rugged, half-whispered vocal. It’s unfortunate. Sans voice over, this is a stellar track, pure blues reminiscent of Hot Tuna at their best, but pushing an overly rehearsed monologue to the fore doesn’t bring any greater intimacy to the song. It sounds arbitrary and like a gimmick. Coyle redeems himself immediately with the following track, “Surrounded”. This sad, slightly wistful song takes great care with creating a musical mood. Coyle’s vocal matches the fragile atmosphere with a lyrical vocal full of emotion.

Coyle veers off track again with the needlessly cluttered finale “Nightclub Towns”. It’s a promising subject for a song and Coyle doesn’t disappoint with many flashes of lyrical prowess, but the song’s potential flounders thanks to production effects on the vocals that drain all the blood out of Coyle’s voice. He sounds removed, distant, and the result weakens the song overall. 

His experiments seem arbitrary, even like someone who feels self-conscious about performing such traditional material that he feels compelled to shake things up by any means necessary. This blind desire to turn down dark alleys hoping to strike creative gold gives listening to Perfect Word Perfect Beat’s second half a flying by the seat of your pants quality, but the experiments are misfires that never quite connect.  


6 out of 10 stars 

Bradley Johnson