Believe me; I’m well aware what I am getting myself into by reviewing Daphne Loves Derby’s newest. There is a clear and present divide on this band and for good reason. Their early development in the maturity department, to an extent that surpasses bands twice their age, is an instant attraction to some. With that maturity, however, comes a fairly uninteresting byproduct in some cases and this being one of them. Their execution just can’t juggle it, unfortunately. Good Night, Witness Light is more or less a slightly modified revision of the same material these guys have been cranking out since ‘03. There is some slight newfound clarity in various instances, but not enough for those who found nothing of interest on On the Strength of All Convinced. Those who got off to the band’s first proper full-length, however, are more than likely going to be surprised with what this Seattle trio has crafted this time around.
I want to love this album, but getting past some of its irritating tendencies just make it impossible. Daphne have all the song writing ability and stirring musicianship down pat; proving undeserving of asshole Fall Out Boy comparisons amongst other snide review tools to degrade these guys to the level of some band riding the waves of Something Corporate and Copeland’s success. Truth is, these guys are on the doorstep of something incredible, they just haven’t quite made it work this time around. Good Night, Witness Light just takes beautifully plaintive aspects, which would otherwise work well, and scatters them between run of the mill pop-rock anthems (“No One Is Convinced”, “Miniature Christmas Tree”). Had Daphne maintained the strength and beauty they caught in the two album bookends, “Are Two Chords Enough, Dear?” and “How’s It Going to End?”, this album would’ve already been dubbed a “classic” by now.
This has got to be the first album in a long while where Matt Squire’s behind-the-scene work doesn’t rub me the wrong way. The production is crystal clear, the studio-bred filler is always in good taste, and Kenny Choi’s capable vocal ability couldn’t have rung truer. He must’ve been crazy, however, to agree to include “Marching Band Intro” into the mix. This “interlude” completely disrupts any continuity Good Night, Witness Light had going for it. That’s half the problem here, as mentioned above; the album is thoroughly unstable and lacks any distinct theme musically. When I did find myself listening all the way through, it was for little embellishments and tidbits here and there. Such as the guitar work in the verses of “Stranger, You and I” and Jason Call’s bass lines in “Iron in the Backseat” and “To Struggle With Light Colors”. Daphne is great at throwing one fantastic aspect to a song and moving on, which is great for first impressions but kills any staying power.
Lyrically, this is about as straightforward as Kenny has gone. There’s not nearly as much imagination here found in past songs such as “A Year On An Airplane”. Kenny speaks a lot about change and progression. These themes find themselves in areas such as “Oh what a sight it would be/if the skies were replaced with flying machines” in “How’s It Going to End?” and New Years references in “Love and Mercy” and “Miniature Christmas Tree”. The album artwork even evokes past trends or ideals being on exhibit, giving Kenny the initiative to observe them as properly as he does here.
You have to hand it to Daphne Loves Derby for keeping their material consistent and full-bodied, but they still have some lofty obstacles the band has to surpass before they can fully harness their obvious talent. Until that happens though, Good Night, Witness Light is a respectable effort in the right direction. It’s got its moments, nevertheless a disappointment for fans expecting more. With bassist Jason Call’s recent departure, the band is getting some new blood. Maybe with this Daphne will get out of their four year funk. We can only hope.