By Darker My Love
Darker My Love's 'Alive As You Are' album is sedate indie-rock with psychedelic vocals, which takes the route of repeating the same blurry-eyed hook over and over, until the song eases its way into your memory. 'Backseat,' '18th Street Shuffle,' 'Rain Party,' 'June Bloom,' and 'Split Minute' all conform to this formula.
On 'Backseat' the limping drumbeats, lazy slide-guitar and the woozy rise and fall of frontman Tim Presley's vocals, means this song is easy to like, even if there isn't enough to make you fall in love with it. 'Split Minute' is another song that lacks that moment where it all comes together in a swirl of psychedelic headiness. What you hear in the first thirty seconds, is pretty much what you get with 'Split Minute,' and it just isn't enough.
'18th Street Shuffle' fares slightly better. The tumbling bass line and Presley's elastic vocals push and pull, and generally get the listener more deeply caught up in Darker My Love's brand of trippy, folky indie.
'Rain Party' and 'June Bloom' are the most sedate songs of the bunch. 'Rain Party' is a long, lazy trundle across sparkly, alt-country terrain, topped off with languid vocals, while 'June Bloom' is a waft of blurry-eyed hooks, starburst strumming and gorgeous, lilting vocals. These songs quickly become boring when you give them your full attention, but taken as easy listening tracks, they are guaranteed to soothe the soul.
Meanwhile, 'Maple Day Getaway' 'Trail The Line' 'A Lovely Game' and 'Dear Author' are in-your-face, by Darker My Love's standards. 'Maple Day Getaway' is all about the guitars, which wind and loop in the usual, lazily hypnotic shapes, but they're not above more obvious scratching and shunting. This is Darker My Love breaking out into a jog, as is 'Trail The Line,' which is one of the few songs that has a discernible chorus. Two Darker My Love songs you can hum along to, and a welcome break from all the blissful, vague psychedelia.
'Dear Author' and 'A Lovely Game' are both darker, tougher songs, but it's 'Dear Author' which wins the title of 'Alive As You Are's heaviest song. The drums and the guitars have a more determined step than elsewhere on the album. Combined with the usual Darker My Love repetition, 'Dear Author' becomes a single-minded stomp for the finish line. However, the band remain true to their psychedelic leanings, as Presley's vocals glide and swirl around the driving guitars. 'A Lovely Game' follows in 'Dear Author's footsteps, with a focused, streamlined march of drums and guitars, but also with the addition of several surreal, eerie tangents that'll send you on a classic Darker My Love-style headtrip.
'Maple Day Getaway,' 'Dear Author,' 'A Lovely Game' and 'Trail The Line' are a welcome change of pace after the vague haze of the rest of this album and, with their sharper hooks, these are songs you won't have to work at getting to know. The shift from pretty atmospherics and blurred vocals, to darker musical terrain on 'Dear Author' and 'A Lovely Game' also adds a much-need dimension to an album that does have a tendency to sound samey.
'Alive As You Are' is an unobtrusive album which relies on slowly winning over the listener through heavily-repeated, summery hooks and hypnotising vocals. Even when Darker My Love sharpen up their hooks on 'Maple Day Getaway' 'Trail The Line' 'A Lovely Game' and 'Dear Author,' they still rely on the same technique of a handful of hooks, stuck on a loop, and repeated until they stick in your head. That, combined with the vague, easy listening nature of this album, means that this is an acquired taste. A blurry-eyed brew of folk, indie and pop, with a surreal spin. One for those who like their music to be understated.