Thursday, February 26, 2009

Darker My Love -- 2

Darker My Love -- 2 (Dangerbird)

This L.A. band makes a gigantic leap on its second album, perfecting a brand of psych-pop that encompasses a few different takes on the genre. I must first reveal that until Jack Rabid made this album his number one pick in Issue 63 of The Big Takeover magazine, I had never heard of Darker My Love. But his endorsement got me to buy this and listening to this made me pick up the debut.

Darker My Love’s first album is rawer in every way, from the production to the songwriting. But the promise was evident. What is astounding is how the band went from potential to outstanding album so quickly. This album has pure pop, shoegazing grandeur, Madchester jams and pure freak outs. The band puts this together effortlessly, finding a central sensibility that binds everything into a coherent whole.

This is one of those albums where the first half is so strong, it takes a while to appreciate the second half (yes, I remember back when this was Side 1 and Side 2). The track that immediately leaps out is the glistening yet muscular pop of “Two Ways Out”. This song comes across like the Inspiral Carpets with balls (and without a Farfisa). With Andy Granelli pounding out a steady beat on the drums and Tim Presley (or is it Jared Everett?) playing a melodic guitar figure that is sympathetic with both the rhythm and the vocal melody, the song just sounds great. Rob Barbato’s smooth lead vocal glides on the up-and-down melody and when Barbato and Presley harmonize on the bridge into the chorus, a California gloss adds just that much more to the tune. And did I mention the chorus itself is a killer hook?

The guitars are more prominent and harsh on “Talking Words”, with Presley, who wrote the tune, on lead vocals. This song starts with the chorus, and has more of that great blend of Presley’s and Barbato’s voices. This is another sing-songy tune, with the gentleness of the melody contrasting the fuzzy chords and Will Canzoneri’s organ fills.

The proceedings become decidedly more paisley tinged on “White Composition”. This is delicate Anglophile pop, with Canzoneri’s keyboards dominating the airy atmosphere. This is in line with the lighter material of The Bees (or Band Of Bees, if you prefer the American nomenclature).

That a band can pull off such a fey delight and then rip into a grooving and groovy Madchester-ish track like “Blue Day” is a testament to how this band has grown since its debut. “Blue Day” has a such a full colorful sound, and room for a great haunting harmony vocal coda in the chorus. Meanwhile, “Pale Sun” also conjures up memories of The Stone Roses and other rockers who could apply pop lessons to chugging rock that you can dance to.

The band has even mastered the epic tune, both on “All the Hurry & Wait”, which starts out slow with an air of mystery, and builds up to great heights, with fine guitar work and string and horn accompaniment, or the moody closer “Immediate Undertaking”, which is awash in reverb. Throughout the record, if I haven’t made this clear, the band is in command, no matter what they try.

The difference between the first two Darker My Love albums is similar to the difference between Midlake’s first two albums. The first announced a talent, the second is where it emerges, fully formed.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great review Mike! Nailed this one perfectly. It was my #10 album of 2008.