Music Reviews
My Head Hz

Naked Days My Head Hz

(569826 Records DK) Rating - 8/10

If you’ve ever heard a Naked Days album, it’s clear that bandleader Degnan Smith has a consistent and clearly defined style. A typical song includes fingerpicked nylon guitars, some of Smith’s airy and occasionally dejected vocals, and songwriting structures that can turn on a dime. Often in the past, it’s because of this style that songs blended together, as there’s only so much nylon acoustic guitar that a human can take. On his latest album My Head Hz, Smith puts his longtime friend Will Toledo (of Car Seat Headrest) on production duty—giving the project's excellent songs the crispness that they have always needed.

Throughout My Head Hz, Smith often writes in equally specific sentiments and elliptical feelings, both of which suit his musical style comfortably. “Seems like everyday I grow a little more out of touch with myself and my thoughts and my friends,” he sings on the album’s second single, Old Woods, following an opening soliloquy about living room tables. By juxtaposing the domestic details around him with the direct articulation of his thoughts, he creates a familiar state of emotional stasis for the audience. Things feel cozy, the topics being discussed are familiar, and Smith’s voice calmly shares his somewhat downbeat thoughts with us.

Much like Andrew Cedermark’s Fort/da or Sinai Vessel’s Ground Aswim from last year, this album is comforting but not unadventurous. Bus Ride features driving drum work from Toledo’s bandmate Andrew Katz and jagged electric guitars, all before revealing a catchy riff that recenters the song. The atmospheric Bother begins by recalling the production of a 2000s adult contemporary pop song, then switches naturally to a tight and violin-oriented groove. With Drops, Smith deadpans to the listener that he created a “theme song to a date [he] overheard in Seattle,” which is goofy but not unlike something his producer would do. By the time the electric guitar lead comes crashing in, and Smith starts sharing details of the date (“Now he's talking about his ex/and she’s pretending to be interested,”) it all becomes rather entertaining.

An Entire Year of Runescape is the album’s inevitable highlight, as it touches upon the world around us with the sort of humility and personality that would only make sense coming from Degnan Smith. Many of us spent the last year in quarantine, feeling unfathomably unproductive and as if we were treading emotional water. In a few ways, it reminds me of a hopeful version of Open Mike Eagle’s Everything Ends Last Year, a song that hit so hard throughout the endlessly clichéd and downright cartoonish misery of 2020. “I spent a year doing exactly what I wanted to/what do I have to show for it?” asks Smith during the first verse. Despite his self-doubt, it’s pretty clear what he’s accomplished. My Head Hz is his strongest album yet, taking his natural ability of poetry and pairing it to the best production a Naked Days album has ever had.