There have been few busier songwriters in 2020 than Daniel Romano. The artist was bound for tour when pandemic grounded him, and as chance had it that meant holing up with the touring band for the time being. They certainly made the most of it with a run of nine albums, mostly released to Bandcamp over the past few months. While the offerings explore many of Romano’s strengths — some curio covers, and genre-dense jaunts — his planned LP for You’ve Changed showcases a seasoned pop master hitting stride and feeling completely comfortable in the gilded pop pedigree that recalls extravagant recording budgets and studio habitations that stretch the limit of necessity. It hearkens to a time of major label spending that would make a young band blush these days. Surprising then, that the band nails this one with the implementation of a few rules that keep it completely crisp and keep them from forwarding mail for months to a studio address. Each song was recorded in order of its appearance on the record and by rule none got more than three takes.
Much of the success of How Ill Thy World Is Ordered then, comes down to the aforementioned backing band, a group of players dubbed The Outfit. The group have been shaping Romano’s stage show up through a near euphoric live record released earlier in the year that serves as a primer for those who haven’t been keeping tabs on Daniel for the last few years. While Okay Wow tallies up the past, the future blossoms in How Ill Thy World Is Ordered. Romano has long had a way with tying the ends of pop, country, and ‘70s rock into a tight package, but this record amplifies each of those impulses, pushing him into grandiosity without wallowing in opulence. Like the shifts towards bigger vistas that inhabited recent records by Kevin Morby and Kyle Thomas, the record doesn’t hold back from letting horns, huge hooks, and stadium-sized backup sections drape over every track here, a feat that makes that three-take limit only more incredible.
There’s a feeling of career shift in the belly of How Ill… and records like My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves or Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever come to mind, stretching Romano’s reach and never looking back. The horns in “Green Eye Shade” and “Never Yet In Love” rise their songs to the rafters. The guitars crash down like he’s got something to prove in each note. Ardent fans will be more than pleased and newcomers with a soft spot for large-scale pop should find plenty to hold onto here.
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