“I don’t care about pride,” sings a voice without hesitation or pause for breath. The statement lulls into the opening song of Daylight, the tail end of “pride” lingering in that sultry, oh-so-familiar trademark.
In all of two seconds, five words and one breath, I remember why I’ve always loved Grace Potter.
Potter’s latest album, Daylight, feels like a debut. This is a statement that conflicts with her extensive musical career — from her time with indie rock band, The Nocturnals, to her underrated feature in Disney’s modern animated classic, “Tangled,” with the song “Something That I Want,” Potter is far from a novice. Yet, after a four year hiatus since her last album Midnight, and a brutal, emotional rollercoaster ride within her personal life, Potter returns to the limelight a different woman. Maybe that’s too bold for a simple small-town music critic. But listen to Potter’s Daylight and you might just find yourself in agreement.
Daylight has all the bells and whistles of a classic Grace Potter album: Her characteristic, take-no-crap attitude is in fine form. Masterful vocals are abound, and catchy, fun lyrics are delivered with Potter’s signature flair. Potter has always presented herself — in song, at least — as a woman with her head held high, shoulders back, chin raised in challenge. A challenge she tosses at the feet of the world, as if to dare the universe to knock her down. That presence remains — but Daylight is a different beast. A beautiful, vulnerable, heart-pounding and pulse-racing beast.
To start, Potter moves away from her classic indie rock style to embrace an exhilarating hybrid of folk and blues. The two-woman folk duo Lucius, who are featured throughout the 11-track album, emphasize this shift. “Repossession” starts slow, hints of jazz floating through the empty rooms of Potter’s life, as she sings of her “Thirty big brown boxes lined by the door / Thirty years of my life that you can’t claim no more.” The song is like a chameleon — equal parts easy-going beach vibe, ’50s bop with Lucius’s do-op style vocal accompaniment and Potter’s powerful voice like butter. Mental imagery is torn between an empty jazz club in downtown New York, or Potter with a margarita in hand, watching a beach sunset as she sings “This is the repossession, possession of my heart.”
“Repossession,” one of the many great tracks in the album, defines the overarching themes of Daylight. Potter, who returns to fans new and old after her own personal upheavals, focuses on how one can redefine their life after tragedy. Her album is both an exercise of self-affirmation and an offering to a world quick to judge, quick to pull the trigger. Daylight is a beautiful, powerful potion brewed through honesty, seasoned with vulnerability and served with a side of “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
The album’s opening song, “Love is Love,” is strong and blunt. Potter, who sings of falling in love with another man despite being in a dubiously committed relationship, offers a fresh take on a taboo subject. “Love is love, it takes a hold” — it is easy to condemn others if you’ve never fallen prey to whims of love. While Potter doesn’t necessarily justify cheating or affairs, she adds an overlooked but appreciated dose of empathy. The song transforms into a hybrid, gospel-like prayer: “I will worship these wounds everyday / yeah, the cuts that bleed from my mistakes.” Love is messy, but tell me something new, right? Potter doesn’t offer a revolutionary analysis of love, but rather unexpectedly manages to restructure how we respond to the unplanned roadblocks and detours of our lives. Love has always been messy, but knowing and accepting that fact are two very different things. Daylight, at its core, is about acceptance.
Potter offers no apology — she doesn’t shy away from things like guilt or remorse, but neither does she offer a surrender of wrongdoing. Rather, she owns her mistakes and posessively claims her mess. “On My Way” highlights this, switching to Potter’s familiar indie-rock style to clarify a firm sense of ownership and confidence, singing “But it’s too late, lady, too late to be afraid / I’m already on my way, yeah.” Daylight is an album about mistakes, mishaps and confliction — we are who we are, human. Flawed, with chips on our shoulders and brains and hearts. “Babe it’s too late to buy me / too late to tie me up in silk and lace / And it’s too late to shoot me” — Potter challenges us to embrace our mess, as she has embraced hers.
To quote George R.R. Martin (I couldn’t help myself), “the night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope.” What better way to arm yourself, as you foray into a cold, snowy night, than with a bit of Grace Potter’s personally crafted “Daylight?” Something to anchor your identity with, perhaps, as we all enjoy the opportunity to forget who we are in the day, and embrace someone we could be in the comfortable cover of Ann Arbor’s lamplit streets. Leave behind your mess for an evening and Grace Potter will help you remember who you are, and who you can become, when the sun rises in the morning.