Throughout his new album, This Loud Morning, available everywhere June 28, there are numerous references to falling skies, suns and stars. The "night keeps calling" him. On the nearly six-minute closer "Rapid Eye Movement," he hoarsely sings his desire to "kill the blinding lights of day."
Who could blame him for wanting to escape reality? In the year that preceded the studio sessions for This Loud Morning, Cook experienced new highs of a successful post-"American Idol" world tour and crushing lows after losing older brother Adam to cancer. "The world around me got a little loud, so there were mornings where I woke up and it was just like, 'OK, I just need to stay in bed and try again tomorrow,' " Cook recently told MTV News.
David stayed in bed, so to speak, by crafting a dozen ditties that each feature subtle dreamlike studio flourishes. Songs blend into one another. Melodies and themes reappear. This Loud Morning is not a "concept album," per se, but it's the most focused and complete artistic statement an "Idol" winner has created since Kelly Clarkson's personal My December from 2007. (Incidentally, both were released by 19 Recordings/ RCA Records.)
"The last thing I wanna do is make a record where it's like, 'Here's the first song, and that ends; three-second break. Here's the next song, that ends; three-second break.' I don't want to make a collection of songs; I want to make an album. That's the goal. I feel like with this album, I really outdid my prior endeavor," Cook said.
To achieve David's dream-inspired vision, he and executive producer Matt Serletic spent 18 months adding music boxes, echo-y strings, boys' choirs, Theremins and sitars to Cook's grungy guitars and pop-metal melodies. Some instruments are easier to pick out than others. David promises "headphone nuggets" on repeated listens. (Four spins in, I still couldn't find a Theremin if my life depended on it.)
As "arty" as that might sound, fans will be pleased to hear that This Loud Morning is populated with enough massive choruses to put a Monster Ballads compilation CD to shame. Every single track erupts with an arena-ready midtempo sing-along, tailor-made for lighters above heads. There are guitar solos straight out of Bryan Adams' '90s oeuvre. Guitarist Neal Tiemann channels U2's The Edge on "We Believe," an anthem about blind faith. Later, "Paper Heart" bursts at the seams thanks to an earworm of a lick that Coldplay members wish they thought of first.
Tiemann and bandmate Andy Skib deliver the album's biggest surprise, co-writing (with Cook) the spacious and timeless ballad "Goodbye to the Girl." David gently croons over "Golden Slumbers"-esque chords, "When did all the gold around us rust, turning all the love we had to dust/ It took the best of you." It's a side of his voice fans haven't heard since he belted Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night" on "Idol." Eventually, the track builds with swirling rock organs, strings and a doozy of a chorus that you swear Journey's Steve Perry is singing.
The topic of love dominates the majority of Cook's new songs. The sweeping power-waltz "Fade Into Me" — co-written by David, Jamie Houston and Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin — finds the rocker tapping into his sensual side. "Fade into me, fade into you/ The two of us melting together until we become something new," goes the chorus. Pretty sure he's not talking about a conjoined twin. Ahem.
Two tracks later, his lover has grown distant. David pleads, "Give me one more try before we say goodbye," but then, the song's called "Take Me As I Am," so one can only assume that Cook himself isn't willing to change. Eventually he accepts his relationship's "doomed" status on kickoff single "The Last Goodbye," co-penned with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder.
Lyrically, This Loud Morning never explicitly references Adam's death, but knowing Cook's history may give certain songs a deeper meaning. "Time marches on without you," David sighs at the end of "Time Marches On," just as a funereal vocal arrangement takes over your speakers. What exactly are he and his partner-in-crime hoping to run away from in "Right Here, With You?" Time? No matter what the universe has in store for them, David finishes each heavy chorus with a quiet refrain, as if it's a bedside lullaby. "I'm on your side."
Cook takes things further on the piano-driven shuffle "Hard to Believe." "When did you lose any sense? And when did you find that you can't hold on?" he asks. Three minutes later, the song has swelled and David repeats, "Just stay with me!" Romantic or otherwise, this is a relationship Cook does not want to see go away.
Maybe the overarching theme of This Loud Morning isn't love or dreams, but rather inevitability. Whether you like it or not, all things must come to an end, be it a day, a dream, a relationship or a life.
This Loud Morning concludes with the same haunting music-box melody that begins the opening track, "Circadian." The bookended structure begs the listener to hit "replay" the same way we all smack the "snooze" button on those dreaded mornings where we don't want to face the day.
David Cook invites you to stay in bed and dream a little longer. You can always try again tomorrow.
If you can't wait until June 28 to hear This Loud Morning, AOL will be streaming it on Monday.
Are you excited for David Cook's sophomore major-label release? Sound off in the comments below!