Danny The K, a co-author of what is still my #1 ranked album of 2023, is without a doubt one of the best songwriters out there. Oddly enough, he'd never done a solo release — until now! Out today on Rum Bar Records, Cigarettes & Silhouettes finds the Watts/Shang Hi Los/Peppermint Kicks rock superstar devoting himself fully to a pure pop sound. His knack for big hooks and earworm melodies has long been on display in the hard rock, punk, and garage rock songs he's best known for. But on Cigarettes & Silhouettes, he goes all in on pop and creates the ultimate soundtrack to summer. I'm tempted to describe this EP as "AM radio pop," but that reference would be 45 years out of date. Still, a lot of you will probably get what I'm saying.
Cigarettes & Silhouettes is a solo endeavor in the truest sense. Danny sings all the lead and harmony vocals, plays all the instruments, and even mixes in some keyboards and electronic beats. He recorded and mixed the whole record himself. In a way, these are vintage Dan Kopko songs. In another way, they're unlike anything he's done before. The vibe and the sound of this release are just so smooth. I'm not talking yacht rock smooth; I mean more like Malibu lemonade by the pool smooth. These five songs are built on a foundation of easygoing melodies, silky harmonies, and sweet, sticky hooks. Danny's love for '70s radio is as apparent as ever, but he excels here with a softer touch. I hear these songs and can't help imagining them emanating from the amusement parks, skating rinks, and drive-ins of my youth. Lead single "Roller Derby Girls" seemed like it would be hard to top, but "Sugar Rush" just might be THE hit. If you could bottle everything you loved about summertime and turn it into a song, this would be that song. "The Skateaway" has more of a melancholy feel as it reflects on summer glories coming to an end. That hook has been latched to my noggin for weeks. The title track has a reflective, mellow vibe to it — demonstrating that a pop approach to songwriting doesn't have to mean lightweight. In the hands of a lesser songwriter, a song called "Met You in an Elevator" could have been unbearably cheesy. But Danny the K totally pulls it off, dialing up a gorgeous, stick-in-your-head melody along with lyrics that melt the hearts of the eternal teenagers in all of us. It's also an outlier on this release in the respect that it sounds very much like contemporary pop music. Hopefully some teen star will cover this song and make Danny filthy rich on royalties.
While Danny the K has been a major creative force in the underground rock and roll world for a long time, Cigarettes & Silhouettes is his first creation that's 100% his baby. The vision and the execution were entirely in his hands, and he knocked it out of the park. This EP is guaranteed to please longtime fans, but it also allows Danny to try things that might never have fit in with his bands. This is a great little pop record from a true craftsman of the style, and your summer will not be complete without it.