Combining the sweetness of adult contemporary pop with a college rock sensibility, the Arizona songwriter presents the raw emotions of a breakup in a familiar, comforting package.
Phoenix, Arizona songwriter Danielle Durack had written breakup songs before, but when she played “Eggshells” for her boyfriend of several years, “it started a conversation about everything.” They ended up splitting, and Durack’s third record, No Place, sorts through the decision to part. “Eggshells” is the culmination of a years-long shift in Durack’s music to something rawer and less polished: 2017’s Bonnie Rose was straightforward, cutesy piano pop, while 2019’s Bashful landed closer to slick adult contemporary. Expanding her band to include fellow Phoenix vocalist Sydney Sprague and Pedro the Lion drummer Sean Lane, Durack’s latest is a slow-burning breakup album that draws on myriad influences to eke out something fresh.
Durack thrives in the middle ground between lite FM and modern college rock, the space where Phoebe Bridgers makes a pop song or Sara Bareilles experiments with trip-hop. What her influences share is an emphasis on craft, clever wordplay, and storytelling. The chorus of “Billy” is worthy of one of Bareilles’ ballads, but the ambience and subject matter—watching a friend self-sabotage and end up behind bars—feels equally Bridgers-ian: “You say you can’t avoid it/Your pride is too important… I can’t afford to lose you over something stupid.” Durack’s sincerity makes these songs her own, with a sense of humor that feels friendly instead of ironic. “Broken Wings” is sneakily, genuinely funny: Durack’s intonations of “you’re a charming kind of manic/God, I find it so romantic” and the groaner line “I Cold Stone Gotta Have It” land because there’s real emotion behind the half-rhymes and ice cream puns.
That balance between adult contemporary pop sweetness and self-conscious indie rock whimsy makes the record especially endearing. Producer Sam Rosson, a longtime friend of Durack’s, mostly keeps things from going too far in one direction, adding folklore-esque electronics to ballads like “Now That I’m Alone” or roomy live drums on “Don’t Know If I’ll Stick Around.” The approach isn’t perfect: Leaving “There Goes My Heart” so bare makes the similarity to that one Twilight song a little too obvious. But Christina Perri would not be as precise as Durack is in her writing: “You’re calling me crying to tell me you’re sorry/To tug on my heart strings and call me your darling/And that’s what I wanted, but not what I asked for.” The emotions are raw, but the packaging feels familiar; ideal comfort after a breakup.
No Place doesn’t try to transcend its influences, but modesty can be a strength. It feels like a real person writing about a real breakup, and though the album is not as eccentric or theatrical as it could be, the restraint works. If there’s one song that does reach transcendence, it’s the one that kicked off the heartache to begin. “Eggshells” doesn’t sound like a breakup song at first: The oohs are lifted from early-2000s adult contemporary radio, and the arrangement wouldn’t sound out of place in a Jack Johnson song. Like most of the album, it’s warm, humble, and unsurprising. When Durack sings, “I can’t fight the feeling that we are slowly dying/Like those flowers you always bought me,” the feedback roars in, communicating her anger. It’s thrilling to hear a record so unassuming suddenly cut loose in its last moments, a sign that someone indebted to her influences is coming into her own.