Album Review: Dana Why – ‘The Lyre’

Posted: by The Editor

Completely self-produced projects aren’t hard to come by these days. Anyone can install some basic recording software on their laptop and make a “bedroom” record. No hate—projects of such are usually fun in all their lo-fi cuteness, but so few of these records truly stand out, especially now that it’s a popular route to take for musicians who don’t feel like collaborating with 3 or 4 other people or paying for expensive recording sessions. However, New Jersey based multi instrumentalist and songwriter Dana Yurcisin is changing the standard. He’s done the lo-fi thing for years, releasing rough-around-the-edges, self-produced music under different project pseudonyms such as Static Sex and his full name, but is now getting more serious. He’s made his debut under his new alias, Dana Why, just this year with the maximalist 15-track album The Lyre. It’s a sprawling self-produced, self-mixed and self-mastered project that separates Dana from most lone wolf solo artists with hi-fi, genre expansive pop songs. 

While mostly fixated in the indie pop-punk realm, The Lyre is an album made for the modern rock music fan that’s dabbled with listening to a little of everything while trying to find the genre “for them,” only to realize you don’t have to pick just one. “Night, Be Kind” does this best, being an almost lullaby inspired pop song before brutally slamming into a 2000’s screamo refrain with walls of heavy guitars and wailing vocals. Yurcisin’s ever shifting vocal delivery is almost like a musical time machine; taking nostalgic millennials back to their days of listening to N*SYNC on the radio while sitting in the backseat of their parents’ car, then quickly fast forwarding them to blasting bands like Underoath or Alexisonfire when they finally got their own wheels. 

Yurcisin can play it straight forward to even more satisfying results, like on the incredibly catchy double whammy of “Western Cemetery” and “Jersey Devil.” Both songs feature cartoonishly distorted guitars and singalong melodies that feel like homages to Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” while being sadder and more contemporary. Synthesizers shimmer behind lyrics like “I want to care but your problems mean fuck all to me” or “Happiness calls from behind glass walls” instead of lines about how it’s dandy to look like Buddy Holly. 

Yurcisin’s affinity for pop music goes far beyond just Weezer, though. He tries (and usually succeeds) to add production flairs that keep these rock songs not only surprising, but up to speed with new musical trends. For instance, the triumphant “Life In Between” features a hefty dub-bass breakdown full of obnoxiously auto-tuned vocals that slither from left to right. “Karla Sells Hexes” leans even farther into this experimentation, featuring entire verses with T-Pain level autotune and distorted thumping bass that feel almost hip-hop inspired. 

Unfortunately, the shear amount of ideas Yurcisin tries to jam into one song can clash and lose the plot at times. This is most evident on “Hand Sanitizer,” a near 5-minute track that can’t decide if it wants to be acoustic ballad or an old school punk rager. The low-key sections aren’t as satisfying as other tracks that already exist in that space, like the cloudy and melancholic “Mt Misery.” On the other hand, the louder sections of the track often get swallowed by the bass-y production, especially during the awkward call and response refrain. “Heaven is a Highway: Black Coffee” suffers from the same issues; dragging in its attempt to transition from gentle to incredibly loud during its over 8-minute run time. 

Even though the ambition of the project can sometimes cause it to falter, its also what makes The Lyre so damn fulfilling. It’s an album made for music fans seeking something different by someone who is just like them. Dana is well versed in knowing the audience and how to keep them on their toes, while also feeding their appetite for what they grew up on. It satisfies nostalgia by bringing memories back into your life rather than just leaving them as they were.

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

The Lyre is streaming now.

Nate Cross | @BigNafey

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