After parting ways with RCA and relocating to Nashville, Tennessee, singer and songwriter, David Cook returns to the music scene from a four-year hiatus with his third studio album, Digital Vein.
David Cook never fails to wear his lyrics on his sleeve and his latest record, Digital Vein proves that sentiment. Today, the former American Idol winner released his follow-up to 2011’s This Loud Morning with a common theme throughout the record focusing on how love flows through life—or life flows through love, however way you hear it. With a clever play on words, Cook’s latest record runs through every emotion and feeling similar to that of a blood vessel passing through every inch of the human body and back to the core of its very existence—the heart.
After selling a little more than 2 million copies of his first two post-Idol albums for RCA, Cook thought of pursuing the life of a songwriter as opposed to continuing a thriving career as a singer. “I started making a record not knowing if I was making a record or knowing if I was going to finish said record. Now, I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun making a record,” he told USA Today.
Recording most of Digital Vein in his home studio with a backing band, Cook wrote 10 of the 12 songs with writing partners, Andrew Waldeck, Chris Reardon, Blair Daly, Zac Maloy, Jerry Flowers, Forrester Foster, Andy Skib, Chad Carlson, and Kevin Griffin. By taking his time with a new record, Cook has been allowed to change the pace of his career in these past four years and regain a sense of balance and control over the direction of his music. Having self-produced the record for the first time since his winning stint on Idol, Cook shares it was a small group of people who were mutually invested in working on the album with him.
Opening the record with a “Heartbeat” and warm chords, this first track is unabashedly sentimental and highlights rich vocals from Cook. It’s a sweet song that really builds into a steady rhythm, shifting delicately from simple instrumentation to an anthemic burst of emotion that is a powerful rock ballad and one listeners will really enjoy as they begin listening to the record. Galloping into a solid rhythm with fierce guitar riffs, “Criminals” is the second track and was reportedly one of the first songs Cook wrote after moving to the Nashville area three years ago. With a retro rock vibe treading a ‘young-love-against-all-odds’ sort of frame, the arrangement on this song mimics the urgency of Cook’s lyrics as he ascends vocally, nailing all the high notes.
At first “Broken Windows” sounds like another song about a fragmented relationship, but Cook’s third track is nothing like anything you’ve ever heard on the radio. Singing, “These two hearts are like a house along the fault-line,” the lyrics tug at a failing and volatile relationship that can’t see past the cracks. With a stellar set of guitars and drums pounding through the beats, it’s also a little reminiscent of a distinct new-age country sound treading pop elements.
Followed by the fourth track, “Laying Me Low,” Cook highlights a cool side with his vocals as he expresses a desperation and vulnerability through an emotional chorus. Singing, “You got my heart in your hand/No, I’ll never understand and it shows,” the lyrics full of irony, pain, and dynamism complement the melody immaculately. Blending familiar haunting melodies with fun, bounce, and energy, Cook’s vocals are flawless, moving from gritty to smooth in mere seconds, harmonizing a sort of swagger into the lyrics and beat.
Cook’s fifth track, “Better Than Me” is gorgeous and showcases his attractive chops with delicate and beautiful pianos, complementary to the bright guitars. Blending into a 80s sort of sound, it’s more of a softer song and quite different than anything the artist has ever done. That said, it’s a great push for Cook and highlights his adaptability to sound and experimentation. It is a beautiful song that feels very soulful and airy, inducing thoughts of cityscapes and a romantic love from the point of view of a soul in awe, singing, “I’ve become the shadow, you the light.”
With a faint heartbeat monitor pulsing behind the drums, “Carry You” follows and shows a softer side to Cook’s vocals. Revealing to Billboard that the sixth track was built around the bass line, it’s a song with many complementary layers and smooth vocals. Singing, “When the sun won’t come around/And your world keeps washing out, I won’t let this love fall down/I’ll carry you,” Cook is a real believer in braving the storm when it comes to relationships and it translates beautifully through his music.
Feeling like a sunrise in those first few moments, “From Here To Zero” begins with brilliant guitar riffs as Cook croons of a persistent love, singing, “Here we are at the starting line/Of a race that goes till the end of time.” With beautiful lyrics written by Cook and Maloy, the seventh track is one that best suits Cook’s style of songwriting, sound and the overall romanticism he radiates from his music. This can be heard best through a verse like, “A love we saved for a second look/Like a flower pressed in your favorite book/By the window sill/We got lost in a passing glance/As the winter frost melted in our hands/And time stood still.” It doesn’t get more amorous than that.
“Kiss & Tell” sounds like a new direction for Cook as he heads first into a heavy beat, treading a hard rock track. A track composed of feverish beats and synthesizers, it’s got a solid rock-pop sound and almost feels like a dance number. The ninth track, “Wait for Me,” is a haunting and powerful ballad, filled with elegant pianos and electronic drums. Full of emotion and sincerity, Cook sings of an inner conflict versus the push and pull of a relationship he is insecure about. A track both striking and incredibly raw, Cook’s rich vocals genuinely tug at a frank and honest sentiment among another 80s background beat with impressive guitar riffs.
Opening with a drumbeat reminiscent of a heartbeat, Cook’s tenth track, “I’m Gonna Love You” is a beautiful ballad highlighting strong vocals and a tender pulse. An eerie and emotional song with guitars cascading into the beats, Cook’s vocals glide across the lyrics with soul and genuine affection as he sings, “I only want to be remembered/As being the one who’d always say/I’m gonna love you.” Not only is it a stunning track, but it proves how Cook firmly believes in the truth of his songwriting skills.
Though a cover of Chris Isaak’s 1990 hit, “Wicked Game,” Cook’s eleventh track on Digital Vein might be the one that sets him apart from his fellow Idol alum. Singing from the depths of his heartstrings, Cook’s version is brilliant and sets the temper for this heartbreaking song about unrequited love and the mental pain that follows closely. Incredibly inflamed and potent, Cook’s arrangement on the track is reminiscent of Trent Reznor’s stylings with its morose and haunting vocals. It’s one that seriously induces chills and doesn’t feel overdone.
The last track on Cook’s album, “Home Movies (Looking Over Your Shoulder)” feels like a country song in its exquisite tenderness and endearing lyrics. As the most poignant and personal on the record, Cook shares on his official website how he consciously wrote the song about growing up and spending time with his older brother, Adam who passed away from brain cancer in 2009. “He’s been a part of every record I’ve made, but with ‘Home Movies,’ especially, there’s a tangible aspect.” Written by Cook and Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, the song with its bright guitars and warm drums is a masterpiece in the Cook catalog, circling back into the album’s theme of breathing love into life, and the moments that pump meaning into our existence.
While some may think otherwise, the long delay between Cook’s albums was well worth the wait. Digital Vein presents a great sense of artist independence in comparison to his last release with RCA Records. The new record proves that Cook is a force to reckon with, always freshening his style while staying true to himself. Unafraid to experiment with instrumentation, Cook’s immense ability to portray genuine affection with every song he writes and sings is an immaculate talent.
Through Digital Vein, Cook proves he is someone who is rightfully in this industry. As listeners, it’s appreciated to be able to hear an artist pull from an abyss of feelings found deep within himself, pumping meaning into experience and articulating it into a vision of poignant and sentimental music. This is a stellar album, simply put, and David Cook is an astounding songwriter who continuously lays it all out there.
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Digital Vein is now available on iTunes, Amazon, PledgeMusic, and Walmart released through INgrooves Music Group. Stream the Deluxe Edition with three additional tracks now at Spotify. For more information on David Cook, visit his official website and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
What do you think of David Cook’s latest record? What’s your favorite track off Digital Vein? Share with us in the comments below.