Dayglow looks to horizon with bright, blossoming ‘Harmony House’

Photo of Dayglow record
Very Nice Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Sloan Struble, better known as the indie artist Dayglow, is moving out and moving on. Uncertainty abounded on his fittingly titled debut record Fuzzybrain, relatably filled with the maybes and question marks that come with being 17. Struble, now 21, is sculpting declarations out of this residual doubt and insecurity. On his sophomore album Harmony House, he doesn’t merely voice his feelings — he confronts them head-on, fashioning a successful record that is both refreshing and nostalgic.

Swathed in dreamy synth and reverb, Struble’s music settles into a distinct DIY retro genre that feels like twilight settling over the horizon. His quintessential hit “Can I Call You Tonight?” softly captured late night loneliness and indecision. Now, Struble refuses to go to voicemail — while he’s still coming to terms with newfound independence, he no longer wanders lost or lonely. If Fuzzybrain delicately fades into dusk, then Harmony House is the flickering radiance of dawn.

Struble originally created Harmony House as the “soundtrack to an imaginary sitcom,” and he certainly satisfies Gen Z’s yearning for feel-good nostalgia with groovy ’80s and soft pop rock influences. As contemplative sentimentality coalesces with wistfulness, Harmony House presents itself as the antithesis of shadowy emo pop. The album brightly illuminates an alloy of hope and regret, and its warm demeanor — as well as the occasional conversational cliche — makes listening to Harmony House feel like catching up with an old friend.

The record’s rather idiosyncratic production boasts more dynamic diversity than Fuzzybrain, sometimes even swelling to opportune grandeur. Glossy saxophone glides beneath the cool exterior of “December,” and twinkling chimes on “Like Ivy” pacify the climatic, resounding drums on the preceding track “Strangers.” Struble’s most accessible, radio-friendly song “Close To You” mirrors the anxiety of overthinking with its pulsating back-and-forth synths, and the artist’s uncharacteristic falsetto at the chorus works in his favor.

Even as he takes on new experimental risks, Struble still manages to conserve his quirkier musical mannerisms. Perky kazoo and air horn inspire interest in the vaguely titled album opener “Something,” and a spirited recorder solo on “Moving Out” likewise harnesses the noise of an elementary school music lesson to Struble’s advantage. These instrumentals channel a childish nature in a surprisingly mature way, helping clearly pave Struble’s road from adolescence to adulthood.

Harnessing a transcendent and soothing energy, slower songs “Crying on the Dancefloor” and “Into Blue” make up the record’s more sorrowful midsection. The ballads shimmer with the twirling beauty of a disco ball, each note a mirrored tile that twinkles and reflects something new. Following this mirrorball mindset, Struble seems to search Harmony House for an identity as he swims through crowds of strangers. “All the people in a room I didn’t know / All around me, I began to let it go,” he sings on “Crying on the Dancefloor,” and finally, on “Into Blue,” he shapes this into a firm declaration: “I’m moving on.”

After tearfully trudging home from the club, Struble wakes to his recent epiphany on the upbeat “Moving Out.” Here, alluding to earlier track “December” and its analogy of changing seasons, he admits that change is difficult, but declares that “There is a magic / When you break that habit.” Wintry December is behind Struble; now, his mind blossoms with the optimism of springtime.

Struble, now living up to the brightness of his stage name, gazes at the horizon and dreams of better days. On the emphatic goodbye “Woah Man,” he plainly verbalizes his goal to let go of the burdensome past: “If you wanna keep on growing / You’ve gotta leave some things behind.” In Harmony House, he drops his bags at the door to welcome change with open arms.

A thriving, creative revelation, Harmony House sees Struble learn to smile through the harsh reality of growing up. Indie bedroom pop might have formerly been the most convenient label for the artist’s leisurely, moody music, but with his sophomore record, Struble proves that he’s ready to move out of the bedroom and onto the stage.

Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].