Wednesday, October 20, 2021

‘UNCAGED’ Review: Daniel Sherman Breaks the Walls of Genre With Debut Album!

The moment fans have been waiting for is here: Daniel Sherman’s debut solo album UNCAGED is out now!

Speaking about the album, Sherman said,

“This record is the dream that became reality … It is one of my proudest accomplishments to be able to share these lyrics and the album with you in its finalized state. Whatever it is you’re afraid of, whatever darkness you’re facing, whatever memories are weighing you down, whatever voices are speaking lies to you, and whatever trials you’re attempting to break through, remember that everything and everyone has an end. Both you and your darkness will end. As you listen to this album, and as you analyze these words, ask yourself humbly and honestly: “Who am I at the end?””

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With crisp beats and a hip-hop flair, UNCAGED is an amazing sensory experience for listeners of all kinds. Rounding out at over an hour in length, Daniel Sherman has created 16 perfect tracks that flow flawlessly.

Beginning with the haunting track “Inside,” Sherman describes the despondency that comes with feeling trapped inside, and the intense desire for freedom that many can relate to after this past year.

The next song, “The Floral Mask I Wear,” echoes these feelings, which blends acoustic melodies and intense vocal takes. These two tracks feel increasingly relatable after the events of the past year and a half. The themes of these two tracks, in particular, elicit a strong feeling of empathy between Sherman and listeners as we are reminded of artists and musicians during this time, and it can be seen in their creations, including Sherman as he has worked on UNCAGED for the last two years.

The third song, “Bulletproof Umbrella,” feels like a transition from the sound and themes of the first two tracks. One could interpret this song as the next step in the album’s journey as it explores our need to share our innermost thoughts with the people closest to us in the hope that instead of driving them away, it will strengthen our relationships instead.

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Comparatively, the album’s title track, “UNCAGED,” is a very different song in terms of sound, showcasing how this album does not fit into one genre, but is a blend of various themes, sounds, and genres. The message of the song also lends itself to feel more like a call-to-arms anthem as Sherman calls to listeners: “Join me and THE UNCAGED. Join me. We can dance with fire unscathed. I believe the love in us is haunting me ‘cuz it’ll live forever and ever here. So, join me and THE UNCAGED.”

Daniel Sherman

This message is repeated at the beginning of the next track, “Voices,” which has a faster, harder rock feel. In this song, Sherman describes what it is like trying to cope with all the “voices” inside battling for his attention, pulling him in different directions as both a person and as a creator, and trying to find others who can relate. Again, repeating his message to join THE UNCAGED as “Together we can live life unashamed.”

“KillaKillaBadGuy” is a more personal song focusing on Sherman’s perceptions and feelings of being an artist and performer. Sherman introduces the song by announcing, “the circus is starting.” He uses this metaphor of performing in a circus to describe the expectations he perceives others put on him as a musician and live performer, stating, “I step out, and they cheer for me. Well, I better deliver. The stage is my cell.” The song focuses specifically on the negative feelings and self-perceptions he internalizes when he cannot live up to these expectations. He feels like he’s been made into an antagonist in his own story rather than the protagonist he wanted to be.

The seventh track on the album “Hosea” focuses on the struggle of overcoming addiction, and it can be up to listeners if they interpret those as literal or figurative addictions. Sherman focuses on the feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and even hypocrisy that come with the idea of how even after we’re “clean,” we still remain addicts and experience the symptoms inherent to that. He also pulls in references to the previous songs, stating he needs to lose the floral mask he wears, which could symbolize something he’s holding onto but needs to let go of, similar to an addiction.

Similar to “Voices,” “Finally” describes feelings of isolation and a lack of connection. Specifically, Sherman’s thoughts on how sometimes the best we can do is focus on surviving, especially when we feel we’re doing it alone, and that one day we will “finish finally” what we feel far away from completing now.

Juxtaposed with “Finally,” the next song, “Fire Dancing,” is about feeling confident in knowing who you are. Sherman uses the phrase “I got fire dancing in me,” which is a great way to depict the passion he has for his craft, but also his belief that he is doing exactly what he should be.

While the next track is only about two minutes, it is still packed with meaning. “Interlude” lives up to its name, serving as a short piece, that while it fits into the rest of the album, also feels separate from it. The beginning voiceover and short instrumental section grab your attention, while the second half of the song has a faster-paced feel similar to “Voices.”

All these different parts of the song, and the way it winds down at the end, serve as a good way to reset or “rewind” your expectations for the sound of the next track, “No Spoilers.” The 11th track on the album, titled “No Spoilers,” has a more energetic, almost bouncy sound, making it very different from all the previous tracks. However, despite this more uplifting beat, the lyrics are not nearly as cheerful as Sherman discusses how the world seems to be getting more dangerous and harrowing as if the apocalypse was happening as he repeats the line, “Everybody said the world was ending. So, I played this song and turned the volume up.”

Backed by a ukulele, Sherman has created the perfect setting for the sea-themed lyrics present in the song. Repeated in the song are the lines, “It’s time to fly and say goodbye. I’ll drop the sails, go for a ride. I know I’ve got somewhere to go, but my anchor’s still set in my home.” Sherman uses these metaphors of the anchor and setting sail to describe how he is torn between staying in the past or moving forward to something new. With the main part of his motivation for staying being the family and friends he’d have to leave behind, Sherman comes to the realization that his past will always be a part of him, and he has to try to move on with the knowledge he can always come back.

Daniel Sherman

In another song commenting on life as a musician, Sherman discusses how he misses performing live. He reminisces about his memories of past shows, the feelings of adrenaline, and how it gave him the opportunity to just let go as he performed. But most of all, he misses the show because of how irreplaceable it is, both the atmosphere of the show itself and the emotions he feels because of them, shown in the lines, “I really miss the show, the way it really knows me. The way it holds me closely, only the show.” This track continues the themes of the past and future, but with a different twist. Sherman uses this song to comment on the perspective that hindsight might give us, and how reminiscence isn’t always positive. Rather, he discusses how we try to forget the past because we miss the way things were, repeating the line, “Life was better before I knew better.”

“I Hate Nostalgia” is a brilliant example of the relatable coming-of-age thoughts most people experience; the wish to grow up and be an adult as a child, and then missing the simplicity of life we had as children when you’re an adult.

On top of a relaxed beat with a few electronic flairs, “Healing” takes a more optimistic take on life. This track focuses on the process of healing and the emotions that come with learning about ourselves and returning to a state of equilibrium, especially after feeling lost for a long period of time. Sherman gives the examples of getting a new hair color, tattoo, and mindset to describe how reinventing oneself can help you discover who you are and bring back the feelings of identity you lost.

As the final track of UNCAGED, “The End” perfectly wraps up the album, asking the pivotal question, “Who am I at the end?” Does the journey he took along this album really matter, or is he simply going to return to the things that keep him “caged?” After exploring multiple themes, including the future/past, isolation, community, insanity, belonging, expectations as a musician, as a person, and more, Sherman pulls it all together to provide an answer. Stating he is “finally UNCAGED,” that he is now home after becoming who he wanted to be. He also prompts us to think about our answer as well.

Make sure to check out UNCAGED, currently streaming now worldwide. Sherman is also offering autographed physical copies of the album for a limited time at his official merch store here.

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Katherine
Katherine joined the Nerds and Beyond team as a writer in 2020. Her superpowers include balancing being a part time tutor, and preparing to be a first year teacher. Her lifelong obsessions include World War ll, hard rock, creative writing, solving complex math problems, and kittens. But her biggest loves are Linkin Park, Evanescence, Sleeping At Last, Supernatural, Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, Stargate, and more. When she isn’t binge watching/listening to her favorites (for the nth time), she can be found traveling the country—mostly to different concerts and conventions.

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