David McKinney is marking a turning point in his music with the release of his EP Phaneron. Using influences from 90s rock and pop, he blends this with acoustic folk and a splash of post-evangelical dissonance. This musical fusion is infused with lyrics that offer a collection of transparent reflections on life in the modern age.
No newcomer to the music scene, McKinney already has 7 self-released albums under his belt, in addition to his music with the band Tasty Bang. After he started writing songs at the age of 13, he has been a part of the Oklahoma City music scene since 2004. His music is easy to listen to as he pulls you into the reflections of the tracks.
The EP opens with the title track ‘Phaneron’ that uses an interesting drum and Americana guitar to grab your attention. The easy plucky vibes of the music get you bopping away to the sound, while lifting something off your chest you never realised was there. McKinney’s vocals pick up the Americana touch of the music as he draws you into the contemplations and story of the lyrics. The lyrics take you on an easy walk that leads to meeting someone. While there is a physical story that works its way through the vocals, this is tempered by a more thoughtful reflection on the way we connect with the world. The bright movement of the music makes this reflection easier to connect with, without diminishing any of its power.
‘The Source’ has a more traditional feeling to the opening run of guitar notes. The music sends you to a sun-strewn porch where you sit next to McKinney as he plays his guitar and sings. It is a really companionable sound that puts a smile on your face. The chorus is catchy and will have you singing along to the non-lyrical sounds of the chorus. While you smile and have a good time to the vocals and music, the lyrics again bring a deeper contemplation on the human condition. There is an examination of conflicting emotions, anxiety and the questions we all ask ourselves when alone. The bopping easiness of the single is really addictive and it will come as a shock when the song ends.
A lighter plucked guitar tone opens ‘Gyri’ making you think of rain drops and cloudy days. There is a nostalgic feeling to the music, like you are floating in the space between awake and asleep while slipping into warm memories. McKinney’s vocals are warm as they settle on your skin like a cosy blanket. The warmth and happiness of memories are broken a bit by the lyrics as they bring a cold dose of reality. Through this single, he looks at how we often try to avoid some of the inevitable aspects of life, but this has been done so gently that it might take a couple of listens to the song to really hit the message.
‘200 Lbs of Usable Timber’ brings a country-folk vibe with the strum of the guitar and the light thump of the drums. As you listen to the music, you can almost smell the scent of wood and nature that floats to you on a light breeze. While there is an addictive bounce to the melody, the vocals are smooth as they slide over the movement. Woven into the lyrics is a love story and the urge to get back to someone you love. This track has an undeniable bright energy that settles like a glowing ember of happiness in your chest. It will also make you think about your own loved ones and want to spend some time with them.
There is a heavier country vibe to the opening run of ‘Through’ that makes you think of the open road with storm clouds gathering in the distance. The vocals come through with a light echo to them like they are on the radio as static tries to disrupt the broadcast. This is a livelier single that gets you moving to the flow before you know what has happened. It also brings the heaviest country-rock vibes of the EP, showcasing McKinney’s versatility. This song is wonderfully different to the other tracks while still retaining something that is purely McKinney. As you listen to the track, you will want to turn the volume up and blare it as you fly down the open road.
The EP comes to a close with ‘In The Flow’ which uses a layered opening of guitar and piano to send you flying into the melody. There is a light touch of retro tones to the vocals as they seem to float on a haze of colours. Through the lyrics, there is a feeling of sudden understanding and a revelation of what life should really be like. This understanding invites you to join McKinney in going with the flow and letting go of your worries. While there is a freedom to be had in this single, there is also a heavy dose of existentialism that drags you down slightly.
David McKinney offers some transparent reflections on life and the human condition while drawing us into relatable stories through Phaneron. The tracks of the EP draw on a range of genres and styles that come together for a sophisticated sound. McKinney has a wonderful talent for drawing you into his reflections with a soft touch, only to leave you with a lot to think about.