Comprised of a rollicking beat that brings to mind the heartland rock of the 1980s, a slick pop hook and vocals that are sourced from Americana at its most radio-friendly, Dan Ashley’s “We Stayed Home” is a lot more than a quarantine anthem — it’s a tribute to all of the features that make an old school American pop-rock single great.
There isn’t a thick bassline backing up the guitar parts in this song, nor is there a heavy filtration through which Ashley’s vocal is repackaged and presented to the audience in a more tuneful (and plasticized) form. Rather than trying to dazzle us with a lot of synthetic intricacies that best belong on the sidelines as opposed to center stage in a track bearing his moniker, this is one singer/songwriter who isn’t about to waste our time with a lot of commerciality in his latest release. For Dan Ashley and most every player with a passion for humanity, times like these demand something a little stronger out of the underground market, and he’s out to satisfy the needs of his audience with some of his most direct and colorful handiwork so far.
Much as the lyric theme goes, there’s an isolated feel to everything in this song, starting with the vocal. There isn’t any reverb springing the words back into place as Ashley utters them to us — actually, there isn’t any sort of ambient presence to his voice at all whatsoever. It’s almost as if he’s talking to himself or exposing some sort of internal dialogue to the listeners, finding the right kind of melody to attach to the cadence of his speech as he goes.
We get some incredibly distinct spacing for every instrument in the mix, with nothing sounding even the least bit cloudy as a larger than life harmony forms in the eye of the sonic storm. Ashley’s vocal is always the biggest stunner here, leaving us with chills as often as it delivers provocative sentiments about what life has become in the wake of COVID and its effect on day to day life. His emotion is real, and were it not, we wouldn’t be hearing nearly as amazing a serenade in this piece.
If you’re a fan of moderate pop/rock, Dan Ashley is someone you can rely on for constantly leaving his audience impressed with whatever melodic wonderment he’s working with at the moment. He’s still working up to releasing a proper full-length LP, but after spending the last year listening to his steady growth as a player, I don’t know that he needs to wait any longer to get into the studio and hammer out a collection of songs that speak to the soul of his creative style.
There’s a lot of really intriguing content coming out of the woodwork in the American underground this year, and judging from the ambitiousness of this most recent project from Dan Ashley, I think it would be safe to say he isn’t slowing his roll for anything right now.