Dalton Wright – Thought Patterns

Thought Patterns. Recurring mental motifs, unconscious subjects of rumination, threads of meaning and understanding that support and destroy our psyches. This concept serves as the title of Dalton Wright’s newest offering, a record whose stylistic influences seem at time as fluid as a mind lost within the confines of its regular routes. Wright’s music career is storied, ranging from metal to folk and beyond, but he’s done a powerful job at crafting an album that feels accessible while still pulling from all manner of niche corners of influence all the same.

Prior to the album’s full release, Wright released two singles – coincidentally, the first two tracks off the record – which serve both as a solid introduction to Wright himself and establish a strong spinal column for what follows. “Echoes” is an ethereal, almost-acoustic track at times, which sees Wright flaunt his upper register over mathy guitar parts. The ending cranks up the intensity, layering guitars in overdrive and kicking the drums up a notch. This in some ways becomes one of the primary “templates” for these songs – lyric-forward verses and choruses with high-energy extended instrumental outros. It wouldn’t be so noticeable if there were maybe a few more mid-song instrumentals (don’t worry, they DO exist) or perhaps varying these sections a bit to not feel quite so jam-bandy in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, these sections ARE cool, but you quickly catch on to the recipe.

“Surrendered” is the second single (and second track), and it’s a faster and more energetic track that takes the sentimentality of its predecessor and layers on playful Midwest emo riffs with a powerful chorus. This is one case where there is actually a mid-song instrumental, though that doesn’t excuse Wright from throwing in yet another one to close things out, where a palm-muted guitar dances around what appears to be tremolo picking on another guitar. This is personally one of my favorites in terms of all-around composition, and it definitely makes sense to be chosen as a way to tease the album.

However, the album doesn’t rest too often in the same place despite some early similarities between the opening tracks. “Party’s Over” opts for a jangly, surfy vibe with a big falsetto chorus, a particular bold change in sold. Typically, I’m not a fan of modern attempts at surf rock, but Wright frankly finds a way to keep enough energy behind it all. Likewise, the chorus line of, “You keep me from losing myself” can barely be articulated well in the written form regarding just how many notes are under the singular word “you”. I’ve honestly found it stuck in my head, even though it’s not one of my top three tracks on the record.

The rest of the album showcases just as many change-ups. “Diving” is a Bloc Party-meets-blues sort of number with one of my favorite endings segments; “From a Jar” could easily have been a b-side of Silversun Pickups’ Carnavas; “Midnight” is a full-on soul-influenced number that shimmers in sensuality that marks it as the most unexpected entry and reminds me a bit of some of Tor Miller’s songs; “Pieces” and “240 Train to Springfield” follow and help form the strongest three-track run on the entire release. “Pieces” shows the moodier, icier side of Wright’s songwriting that manages to capture a vivid sense of nostalgia for some reason. On “240 Train to Springfield”, Wright’s voice feels strangely similar to Howard Jones formerly of Killswitch Engage at times.

Of course, there’s certainly a singer-songwriter ethos here as well. The closing track, for instance, reminds me of Cloud Caverns’ first EP and recent stripped-down tracks and the riffs on other songs and some of the chords on “Echoes” remind me of “Changing Seasons” by Strategic. It’s undeniably perplexing how all these types of comparisons can be drawn, from the retro-folk of Fleetwood Mac to the experimental ramblings of Radiohead, but somehow all of this feels like an accurate description. Wright does all of this without any ounce of pretense, too.

Lyrically, the album seems to follow several snapshots of specifically moments through Wright’s life, and they’re largely reflections on different points in relationships, including polaroids of insecurity, doubt, commitment, and self-image. It strikes a good balance between the pensive and the mundane, and this lends toward to album’s more accessible, singer-songwriter sensibilities.

Overall, my recommended tracks would be “Surrendered”, “Pieces”, “Echoes”, and “Midnight”, though each track shines in its own way. “Dionysus” does well to bookend the album with some of the stripped-back parts of “Echoes” that kicks the album off, but it does feel like the plug got pulled out on the energy level quite abruptly, and all of the characteristic crescendos seen elsewhere are gone. Despite the album’s diversity, there are still some patterns to be found (no pun intended). I can’t help but be drawn to the moments that deviate, and that can certainly be a powerful thing to draw attention – but in this case, it’s Wright’s brooding instrumental passages that are missing. Things end pretty quietly, and all of this follows some of the most unique parts of the record.

Beyond that, I wish there were some more riff-heavy moments like “Surrendered”. The instrumental breaks are certainly noteworthy, but many of them take a heavy-hitting approach. It’s the intricacy of the aforementioned parts that adds some pretty unique textures to the record, and while it’d be unfair to say these type of motifs are a rarity on the album, the instrumental breaks tend to be a more conventional flavor of chord-based rock. Wright knows how to riff, and dang it, I just want a bit more of that. That’s perhaps one downside to an album with this sort of diversity, as some ideas don’t feel like they’ve been explored to their full extent. It’s easy to extrapolate any given part and imagine if it was a bit louder, crazier, more technical, what have you. The songs are certainly strong in their current form, but I KNOW Wright could be even bolder if he wanted.

All that aside, Thought Patterns truly is an eclectic mix of tracks that solidifies the reality that the modern singer-songwriter standard is full-band production. Wright finds a midpoint between sing-along choruses and technical guitar parts with ease. It’s clear he has a sort of a chameleon sensibility, where he could tackle any number of genres with ease. That said, he’s instead baked up a potluck of an album where the flavors in large part seem complementary. Listeners get small bites of sounds that span genres and even decades, and the end result still feels undeniably modern. Thought Patterns is full of promise, displaying Wright’s powerful songwriting craft while also leaving space to continue to strengthen his foundations moving forward.

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