Journalists see more than most of us ever will in this life, and in Dan Ashley’s autobiographical “What Really Matters,” the burgeoning San Francisco-based singer and songwriter reflects on his past experiences as a reporter who, for better or worse, has seen just about everything that this world has to offer. Boasting some of the more endearing lyrical content of any first-timer output I’ve reviewed recently, “What Really Matters” is a song that puts us in the perspective of its composer while still allowing for us to create our own objective interpretations of the narrative. It’s by far one of the most well-rounded recordings of its kind out right now, and definitely a track that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in soft rock with a heartfelt message.
The mix here is very meticulously crafted as to give almost every element, from the guitars to the intricately textured percussive parts, its own individual moment in the spotlight. Ashley’s honey-sweet singing isn’t the only spark to behold in “What Really Matters;” on the contrary, it’s probably one of the more understated examples of grandiosity that you’ll discover when taking a closer look at the track’s most refined details. The only thing that I would have changed about this mix is the relative lack of depth on the bassline, but that aside, this is startlingly focused material – especially when taking into account the fact that it’s coming from an untested, unproven artist who is pretty new to the recording studio.
I don’t know that the guitars needed to have as much of an oomph as they do in the chorus of “What Really Matters,” but I suppose that it makes sense if Ashley was trying to create a central vacuum effect during the song’s biggest climax. By turning up the heat on the strings, it feels as though we’re being drawn ever-closer to the warmth of Dan Ashley’s vocal, which really is the constant linchpin holding everything together in this track like sonic superglue. It’s not going to be everyone’s kind of sound, but for those of us who can appreciate harmony-driven pop with a sensible, almost folk-rock (of the old school variety) inspired approach to prose, there aren’t going to be many singles that can hold a candle to what “What Really Matters” is truly all about.
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Though I wasn’t at all familiar with who Dan Ashley was or what his music aspired to be prior to getting ahold of a copy of “What Really Matters,” I’m really looking forward to hearing more of his work as he grows into this sound over the next few years. He’s got a lot of raw passion that he’s bringing with him into the studio in this track, and if he’s able to hone all of that energy and condense it for the purposes and needs of the contemporary pop audience, there should be no doubts as to the limitlessness of his potential as a performer. Ashely is at the start of an epic journey in this song, and based on the strength of its potent hook, I’d say this adventure is going to last a long, long time.