The Darcys: The Darcys

This isn't sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs music, but the melodies of these songs are perfectly matched to the intended mood, and the resulting mix is an inspiring blend of polished pop and more avant garde experimentation.

The Darcys

The Darcys

US Release: 2011-10-25
UK Release: 2011-10-25
Label: Arts & Crafts

Canadian art-rockers the Darcys may be a complete enigma in the U.S., where I'd be stunned if I could find five people on the street who are familiar with their music. The hope, however, is that their arrival this fall with an eponymous album could change all that. Their first full length since 2007's Endless Water, the new album, produced by the Dears' frontman Murray Lightburn, is an attempt to push genre boundaries through complex arrangements, layered vocals and all manner of looped keyboards and guitars. The result is an album with 10 songs that blend well with each other to form something of a song-suite, with arrangements which hearken back to Radiohead as the vocals seem equally inspired by the pop hooks of Coldplay.

It's odd that a band so obscure as this is so dead-set on defying classification and description, something which makes it difficult to describe them to listeners who would likely enjoy what the Darcys have to offer. Thankfully the music speaks well for itself. "Don't Bleed Me" is a particularly strong introduction to the band's sound, as frantic percussion provides a backdrop to screeching guitar feedback and keyboard fuzz, made more interesting by the addition of Jason Couse's layered, echoing vocals.

The song merges with "House Built Around Your Voice", which sounds like a more restrained Kings of Leon track recorded in an alternate universe where the Followills knew of such things as restraint. The hook of the chorus, with cascades of arpeggiated keyboard and guitar, builds to a peak Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket fans would appreciate. This isn't sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs music, but the melodies of these songs are perfectly matched to the intended mood, and the resulting mix is an inspiring blend of polished pop and more avant garde experimentation.

What really makes the band stand out is the fact that, while these10 arrangements work well as an album's whole, each individual track stands well on its own, too. And their experimental attempts to make genre distinctions more vague makes the album one that reveals subtle nuances upon repeated listens. While no album of the year, The Darcys is more than a mere diversion. This is an album acutely suited for headphone listening, most notably because the band is not afraid to experiment with dynamic shifts. "The Mountains Make Way" opens with a building wall of ambient noise, adding distorted keyboards and bass guitar as the arrangement builds. By the time the drums come in, the song's at full tilt, and at its zenith there is a screaming instrumental wall of feedback, keyboards and drums. At the same time, there's no sense that the underlying melody is lost in the mix. The result is music a great deal more invigorating than I'd expected at the outset.

The Darcys have arrived after their four year absence to provide audiences with genre-busting art pop, succeeding at being interesting which is easily the first step to success. They have their work cut out for them in today's crowded musical landscape, but here's hoping these songs attract notice in the right circles. The Darcys is definitely a move in the right direction for fans of meaningful pop music, and it deserves to be heard.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.