In December 2020, Tom Gaynor (under his moniker Allday) posted to socials, “High on mdma in Bunnings holding hands with the guy at the paint counter”. The Melbourne-based indie rapper has always had a distinctive way of connecting with his predominantly millennial audience, but little did we know, this was a lyric from his upcoming 4th album, Drinking With My Smoking Friends.
Distinctive is an accurate lens to view Allday from. Even if you hate his somewhat corruptive lyrics and boyish persona, the artist listens to his gut and runs with it. It’s why he’s one of the only Aussie rappers that doesn’t sound like a discount Hilltop Hoods, and why his breakout hit Always Know The DJ was such a refreshing bop for party playlists.
Since his 2014 label debut, we’ve seen Allday turn increasingly inward, offering increasingly thoughtful perspectives. Gone are his emo-rap boasts of hedonism, instead replaced with heartbreak tales, jarring juxtapositions (bunnings and MDMA), and politics. On his latest full-length, DWMSF, not only have his lyrics blossomed, but his soundscape has too.
DWMSF is Allday’s first project with no rapping. The artist has gone into full sentimental mode for this project. 808s and fat bass has been replaced by jangly 80s guitar driven pop, offering audiences delicately crafted chord changes and melodies. Take opener Void, which gently lulls the listener into a melancholy euphoria, with effect-heavy acoustic. “No need to curse the sky, when you wash your clothes but they won’t dry”, Allday sings sweetly. The song is incredibly simple, but makes a strong impression. The Cure is a strong reference point here, and for the remainder of the 10 tracks. I wonder how many fans pulled this track from YouTube to mp3 after spotting the Edward Cullen lookalike in the thumbnail.
Cup of Tea in the Bath rides along with observations and fingered bass, until a high-end chorus breaks out. By the end of the track, it’s obvious that Allday is focusing his energy on crafting hooks this audience will sing back to him. For rap-focused Allday fans, this will be a disparaging record, but for indie-pop lovers, these softer sonics will be a welcome change.
Next on the tracklist is standout single, Stolen Cars. It tells the tried and true tale of two lovers running away together, to the sound of drenched synths, a tight rhythm section, and some of Tom’s hookiest hooks to date. It’s his most radio-friendly tune since his Japanese Wallpaper collaborated track, In Motion.
The Paris End of Collins St utilises an awkward, conversational flow that revels in irony and self-awareness. It’s a nod to the effecting style of Courtney Barnett, an artist Allday clearly admires. In the lyrics Allday manages to squeeze in themes of capitalism, existentialism and denial. One hilariously resonant moment caught me off guard: “I don’t wanna go to the art gallery and pretend that I get it. I wanna watch movies with happy endings, alright!”.
Butterfly Sky is the classic stripped back track you’ll find on most albums worth their salt. It’s a testament to Tom’s growth as an artist. Here, he holds a tune with little more than a guitar and melody. “Butterfly Sky you’ll be my brand new start”. It’s a rebirth to be proud of. As Tom nears 30, he’s approaching this new chapter of life calm and prepared, but understanding the stakes. “I’m gunna dive into the strange and lonely”.
Where DWMSF falls short is in Tom’s vocal performance. Though his singing voice is sweet and sincere, he has a limited vocal range, in tone and emotion. His song writing chops and observations are as strong as ever, but since Tom is predominantly a rapper, that’s where his vocal nuances are at their most compelling. Overall however, DWMSF is a beautiful sounding album, with lyrical observations to ponder over, while the lush guitars and melodies spiral you into a daydream.