DAY6’s “I Smile” plays to the band’s emotional strengths, could use improved hook

It’s getting a little repetitive to open every DAY6 review with the same sentiments, but I just can’t believe how well their year-long promotional cycle is going. They’ve been punctual each and every month with high quality releases, and now they’ve smartly packaged the first half of their 2017 output into a full-length album that feels cohesive and accomplished.

As the title track that officially heralds the album’s release, listeners might expect “I Smile” to be one of the group’s more attention-grabbing, bombastic works. Instead, the song flirts with an anthemic sense of production without ever going over the top. As the opening verse swells with swirling guitar and a sense of kaleidoscopic propulsion, it feels as if the track is about to explode. Then the melody pulls back for a more emotional chorus. It’s affecting and atmospheric, but I wish the hook had a bit more oomph to it. That said, the transient nature of the song’s melodic structure allows the guys to tackle a variety of vocal tones that really showcase their versatility.

In some ways, the musical sentiment of “I Smile” hearkens back to the group’s February single, You Were Beautiful. The production here has a much more upbeat, life-affirming drive to it, but the song still feels more beholden to emotion than hooks. This is fine, and definitely plays to DAY6’s strengths, but I can’t help but wonder what “I Smile” could have been if they totally blew open their sound. We get a glimpse during the stunning, synth-drizzled middle eight. It feels like the instrumental catharsis the band has been building to, and hints at a stadium-rock future that I can’t wait to experience.

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