When local rock musician Dan Koshute sets his mind to something, he doesn’t half-ass it.
In my review of Organomy, the 2016 record from his previous band, Dazzletine, I described their sound as “physically incapable of being background music.” That still holds true with Koshute’s brand new solo effort, the nine-track All the Way Always, which drops on September 7th. It’s grand, sweeping, theatrical, and intense. Koshute is inherently high-octane, blending old-school rock-star showmanship with modern alternative influences and punk’s catchy, manic energy. Occasional softer moments showcase his versatility (and let you catch your breath), but taken as a whole, this album is a shot of musical adrenaline. It shines, but the shine isn’t slick and overproduced. Rather, it comes from within—a fire that’s refined and showcased skillfully, without losing its fervent power and occasional unpredictability.
That energy isn’t—forgive the pun—one-note. The empowering opener “Now Etiquette” recalls a video game battle anthem, with searing guitar riffs and emphatic drum and bass lines that almost demand that you nod your head or raise a fist in time. “My Lost Arrow,” meanwhile, takes a more down-to-earth approach, with a killer syncopated rhythm and slightly grungier guitars. And the sixth track “Super Plus” provides a faster-paced, straightforward punk vibe, ideal for jumping around. It’s all high-energy, but it’s different kinds of high-energy. His adept sense of rhythm is key to achieving these variations on a theme. From slower, deliberate, and tension-building, to high-speed headbangers and an impressive range of middle ground between (sometimes within the same song), Koshute’s structural instincts prove just as impressive as his raw talent.
These instrumental tendencies already pack a punch. But what really cranks the amp to 11 is Koshute’s commanding, distinct voice. My previous comparison to Mika still holds true, but he brings more ferocity and grit, all while maintaining remarkable control over incredibly high notes. His use of choral layers and harmonies is more prominent here than in his Dazzletine days, which provides richer texture and depth. While he does utilize a tricky-to-master falsetto for emotional peaks, more often than not he’s singing (sometimes shouting) full-out in his chest voice, with a range that could put many women to shame. Again, it’s intense. This makes his rare lower, quieter moments (many of which appear in the album closer, “Whenever You’re Awake”) that much more striking. If you’re looking for coffeeshop soundtracks, look elsewhere—any Ed Sheeran similarities stop at their guitars and red hair.
Even though it sounds like a full rock band is delivering a stadium show from within your speakers, All the Way Always was completely written, performed, and recorded by Koshute himself. He played every part on the album and recorded it in his room between September and January. If you haven’t seen him performing lately, that’s probably why. Composing and performing songs with this many moving parts is no small feat for a single person, and the results are coherent and full. (He worked with previous bandmate/co-producer Darren Diederich on production and engineering, while Treelady Studio’s Garrett Haines provided mastering.)
With these tools at his disposal, he explores fairly typical songwriting fodder: relationships, introspection, personal struggles and triumphs. But his power pop instincts and love for the unconventional make for a mix that doesn’t feel typical. The song titles alone provide hints that this won’t be your average rock record. And in “Whenever You’re Awake” Koshute intones, “Wrestled with my gods/’cause they implied I could not speak/but the words were said/to provoke me.” This flair for the dramatic is balanced elsewhere by repetition of phrases and melodies, used to build a feeling and really drive it home. A prime example can be found at the end of “Breath Poetry” (a personal favorite.) Immediately after he sings, “’Cause I know that farther off, I will find peace/Wake up in the center of where I should be,” the phrase “And I want to sing it out/And I want to sing” is repeated, over and over and over and over again. After a lyrically dense first half, this transition provides some grounding for the listener, as well as an answer to where he might find his peace—where exactly it is that he “should be.” This carefully honed instinct for structure doesn’t hinder his raw, rougher edges. If anything, it highlights them.
In the third track, also called “All the Way Always,” Koshute sings: “What about the cage?/Well it bothers me no more/Used all my weight and aimed it at the bars.” It’s a perfect summary of what he tries—successfully—to do on this record. All the Way Always is bursting with passion, authenticity, and skill. It’s absolutely worth your time. (Just maybe not right before bed.)
All the Way Always will be released online (including Spotify and Bandcamp) this Friday, September 7th. You can listen to the title track below, or by clicking here. A release show is set for Saturday, October 6th at Cattivo, where he’ll be joined by Bjordan and Diamond Life. Tickets will be $8 in advance and $10 at the door for the 10 PM show. Find out more details here. And keep up with Dan on Facebook here.