Deptford Goth – Feel Real
Now, I’m of the view that a serious musician needs a serious beard, and there is no doubt that Daniel Woolhouse has one of the finest beards in modern pop. I like to think his laconic stage style is due at least in part to a deep concentration – a reverie – pondering not only the complexity of human emotion, which makes up much of his songwriting output, but also to silently urge his beard to grow more lustrous. During the most difficult times in life, to give your beard a stroke makes everything just that tiny bit better.
Deptford Goth, the moniker Daniel uses (although he is neither a Goth, nor from Deptford) takes a lo-fi, restrained approach to the electronic, pop and R&B genres. In the latter, where vocal runs are seen as a requirement, his softly gorgeous singing makes his sound unique.
So, picture it; April 2013, midweek, in a tiny, very dark, very dingy venue in Angel called Electrowerkz. I gathered with a small number of other interested music fans (and quite a few music journalists) to see a relatively unknown singer perform his first full gig (we still managed to pack out the place).
During the support act I realised that standing right next to me during the performance was the man who I had come to see that night. Obviously I was too shy to say anything (my social embarrassment levels reach stratospheric heights when I come face-to-face with a pop singer), but when he later took to the stage, his performance was perfect; achingly gorgeous vocals and delicate R&B inflected melodies. The standout song on that April evening was Feel Real – he genuinely looked overawed at the affection from the crowd towards it.
Following the excellent Youth II EP where his vocals were heavily treated (go check out the sublime title track and the trippy, synthy Mariah Carey influenced Real Love Fantasy), his first full length album was released in 2013 – Life After Defo – it’s a gorgeous thing.
Feel Real was released as the second, online-only single from the album. It is one of those pop songs that is instantly memorable but offers more on each and every listen. Through subtle beats, an insistent hook of “forever meant nothing when we had nothing” and the gorgeous rise-and-fall structure within the song, Daniel shows a brilliant awareness of what makes pop music so great.
The self directed video perfectly compliments the theme of the song, with a soft focus, de-saturated Daniel set against the songs lyrics which flash up on screen. From the opening synth swells and runs, to the faded in vocal with a south London twang ( “I wanna dance like her / Like nobody’s watching / But nobody’s watching”), you’re immediately hooked – the song gradually builds, a subtle electronic groove taking over. It’s all lovely and rather special.
There is something about a man playing thoughtful, introverted songs just backed by electronics, which brings a poignancy to proceedings, probably because many of the themes and emotions explored are so very real to the listener (me, anyway).
That this music genre, if we can call it that, still operates under the mainstream radar adds a sense of it still being a secret, but as much as I’d like to keep this secret to myself, the gorgeous melodies Daniel creates means his songs are deserving of far wider acknowledgement and success.
Entered chart: did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Ooh, someone speak to Jessie Ware. Her smooth, sultry vocals would sound sublime singing this.