Here at the Send Me Your Ears studio today, we’ve been listening to the latest single from SJ Denney. Tread Carefully was released on August 4th, 2023.
SJ Denney has always impressed us in the past by picking just the right solo instrument to work well with the song he’s written. Whether it’s panpipes, harmonica or muted trumpet, the chosen instrument fits perfectly. In the case of Tread Carefully, Denney has opted for a Supertramp style alto sax, riffing all the way through (with some baritone harmonies as well), and taking the lead with a very John Helliwell-inspired solo to fade.
The song brings in the full band from the start with dreamy guitars and some super-jazzy and unpredictable chords. The use of brushes on the drums makes for a great laid-back jazz feel and helps the song drift along as you relax into it.
Tread Carefully is a creative and unpredictable foray into jazz/gentle art rock. We can see this working perfectly on a late-night playlist, or as a study vibes track. It feels hook-less which, in this case, isn’t a bad thing, as the song melts away the stresses of the day and leaves you thoroughly chilled out. We also feel this is a perfect song to be considered for placement in a movie or TV montage behind a scene and would strongly urge Denney to investigate opportunities.
Tread Carefully was written about an ongoing saga with a friend of Denney, and he wrote the track to remind himself that he needed to tread carefully. He notes that as soon as the voice in his head said that, he knew it had to be a song title.
Denney cites Neil Young as an influence in his writing and we can see that here. Together with some Supertramp influences and a touch of The Byrds, fans of 60s/70s art rock and folk will most definitely be drawn to this gentle and relaxing track.
Ideas from our ears
A small boost around 50Hz and another around 150-200Hz would increase the depth and fullness in the low end. There is also a slight peak which can be a little piercing around 15-16kHz so a low-pass around 14kHz should solve that. The fade-out may be a little long as well, around 20 seconds would be the norm. Lastly, for a 5-minute song, to our ears we would like to have heard little more development and variation. As always, these are just some ideas from our ears.
We’re always impressed at SJ Denney’s ability to pick the instrumentation to suit each of his songs perfectly. Not tied to any genre in particular, Denney has proven time and time again that his creativity is a fundamental drive in every choice he makes.