From the cover of his most recent album, it’s hard to discern exactly what Daniel Markham credits to ruining his life. Imagery aside, upon first listen it’s clear he is a man out of place and time.
With the voice of a polished Jeff Mangum and mid-90s Michael Stipe staccato delivery, it’s surprising Markham hails not from Athens, Georgia, but from another college town: Denton, Texas, home to Centro-matic, Slobberbone, The Baptist Generals, et al.
Jesus please don’t let me down
I came here with half my soul
I came here to rock and roll
Markham’s Ruined My Life opens with the Monster-esque fuzz bomb, “I Came Here to Rock and Roll.” Making his intentions known at the outset, Markham unabashedly weaves his way through mid-tempo jangly guitars, heavy low end distortion and country-tinged waltzes, all backing sensitive subject matter. Be it love, music or politics, Markham trucks in dependence (“Best of Luck”), disillusionment (“Favorite Band”) and despair (“Kudzu”).
Is it true our favorite band
Hung it up and made a stand
In front of everyone before we woke
Surely this is just a joke
The production on Ruined My Life warrants attention. Produced by Grady Don Sandlin (RTB2), for an independent release Ruined My Life is the best produced album I’ve heard this year. Every sound is audible, from the off-beat tambourine in “I Came to Rock and Roll” and organ which gives way to crashing guitars in “Best of Luck” to pedal steel swells in “Downhill.” Such atmosphere extends the sorrow in Markham’s vocals, resulting in what is perhaps the best high gloss post-break up mix tape ever made.
Come and go with me my love
I’ll take you where you like
Even into hell my love
It only hurts a while
Whatever the cause of Markham’s grief, he can rest assured that Ruined My Life is a collection of songs that would have fit nicely among the Alternative Nation set two decades ago. In the here and now, it stands out even more.
Watch the video for “Favorite Band” and stream/purchase Ruined My Life below.
(DISCLOSURE: Daniel Markham sent me a Christmas card last year.)