Following the release of the third Silver Seas album ‘Chateau Revenge!’ in July 2010, frontman Daniel Tashian must have worked solidly over the following year. The Silver Seas released an acoustic counterpart to that aforementioned album and played various live shows, while Tashian’s second solo release – the semi-acoustic EP ‘The Lights of Town’ – was also released. By the summer of 2011, Tashian had recorded and released another solo record. ‘Arthur’ brings together nine songs, supposedly themed around the movie of the same name, although naturally, they’re capable of standing alone as individual compositions.

‘When You’re Gone’ is brimming with seventies pop goodness, the kind which sits at the heart of Tashian’s best compositions. It may feature some sharp guitar chords in places, but a harmony vocal, warm bass and soft electric piano lend a strong sense of melody. It’s a number which showcases Tashian’s gift for arrangement. As good as it is, maybe it could have done with being a tad longer… By the time you really get a feel for this track, it’s gone. Equally top-notch Tashian, ‘Tigerlily’ combines acoustic guitars and a smooth electric piano. The lead vocal is also suitably smooth, as the track ambles in a way which evokes a warm summer evening, with its friendly, yet slightly downbeat vibes. Its retroness makes it feel at once very familiar, but never in a way which would suggest Tashian is recycling previously used ideas. The acoustic based ‘Lighthouse’ is pure lounge-pop; it’s not bad by any means – Tashian’s voice is strong and the slide guitar lends a certain mood, but the slight samba rhythm leans on the side of just a little too easy. Still, if the intention here was to capture the feeling of the sea and drifting, it’s certainly successful.

‘Nightmarch’ finds Tashian in a rockier mood than usual, as he cries out above a jangling rhythm guitar, augmented by slightly edgy lead guitar work. The drums are fairly crashy here, too, and the bass appears unobtrusive yet rather busy in its overall approach. There’s a reasonable chorus on show, but it’s a number which requires a few plays before you’ll realise how good it is. ‘Swimming Against The Tide’ opts for a mood that’s almost disco-pop. Tashian’s vocal is strong, but unless you’re really into stuff which sounds like a Bee Gees demo sketch dressed in a Jeff Lynne cloak, it’s just a little too retro. Still, if that’s your bag, you’ll find a really funky bassline (which sounds like it was powered from a keyboard) and a generally tight arrangement here. For those who’ve spent a lot of time with The Silver Seas’ ‘High Society’ or ‘Chateau Revenge!’ there’s a possibility you’ll end up feeling that this number could’ve been the basis for something better.

‘Anna’ is an equal match for ‘Tigerlily’ in terms of greatness. Musically, it sits other end of the scale, being this album’s most feelgood number. An upfront bassline leads the way with a warm riff, which sounds incredibly effective when pitched against occasional electric piano and ringing guitar chords. Tashian’s vocal moves between whispered verses and sung choruses; the contrast between the two styles is effective. His soulful approach on a what is a very enjoyable chorus should have been this track’s big draw, but Tashian takes things a step farther… An occasional string sting tops things off excellently, reminding the listener of this artist’s obvious love for ELO and all things 70s AM radio. While this sounds a little like a ‘Chateau Revenge!’ leftover at times (mostly through its use of electric piano), it’s not second division in quality – and for those who’ve already fallen in love with The Silver Seas sound, this will likely be the number which – unsurprisingly – stands out on ‘Arthur’.

‘Arthur’ contains some enjoyable material which, in a couple of places, finds Tashian branching out a little. Since it doesn’t always reach the dizzy heights of some of the best Silver Seas stuff, it may not be the best entry point to Daniel Tashian’s work. As you’d expect from a great songwriter, though, ‘Arthur’ isn’t without a few genuine gems.

September 2011