Dan Coyle – Perfect Word. Perfect Beat.


Dan Coyle is still a relative newcomer to performing, but he’s logged countless miles and broken guitar strings since his 2008 debut. His latest release, a six song EP entitled Perfect Word Perfect Beat, is a relatively straight-forward collection It reflects a certain amount of daring, but more so, these song reflect Coyle’s growing mastery over an assortment of idioms. They do betray some creative flat-footedness, but even his artistic blunders are informed by the courage of their conception.

The first song, “God I Miss You”, boasts sharp wordplay, an inventive vocal melody, and memorable phrasing from Coyle. The chorus isn’t particularly imaginative, but it’s impossible not to admire the lean economy of a song like this. It’s entertaining and substantive while never coming close, even once, to tiring the listener’s patience. “Phases of the Moon” has the same well-honed focus, but its heart beats altogether different from on the preceding song. It makes more use of common language, but there’s an ever-present delicacy in the lyrical content and performance that lifts it out of the familiar. The quality turns a little with the following track, “The Difference”. What starts out as an unabashed solo performance of Coyle alone with his guitar is soon joined by backing vocalists and another instrumental voice, but there’s an inescapable feeling that the song lacks a much-needed higher gear. Things rarely meander in Dan Coyle’s music, but this song has a steady predictability that it never quite overcomes.

“Hey There Mama” has strong musical qualities that listeners will want to like a lot, but it’s likewise valid to ask if they’ll decide it’s an afterthought next to Coyle’s surprising voiceover. His narration covers a period in his life when he saw his father for the last time, his father died shortly afterwards, and its resulting effects on Coyle’s life. It’s an undoubtedly sincere piece and that obvious fact makes Coyle’s decision to relate it in such a stagy fashion questionable at best. Some will admire its boldness and, undoubtedly, it will prove to be the album’s Luddite track. “Surrounded” has many beautiful moments, but it loses some of the lyrical focus heard in other tracks. However, Coyle gives his best vocal on the EP with this song and it helps set it apart as a high point on the release.

“Nightclub Towns” is a weak ending for the EP thanks to its misguided attempts at using technology to add more flavors to the song. Additional lyrical details, not gimmick vocal effects, would have helped better realize Coyle’s goals with this track. When Coyle keeps things close to his vest and makes the right choices, Perfect Word Perfect Beat succeeds. The first half of the EP has many memorable songwriting virtues and top-notch musicianship. Coyle loses his way some during the second half and it dulls the music’s impact.

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7/10 Stars

D. Stephen Bailey