PYYRAMIDS: Brightest Darkest Day

PYYRAMIDS have put together an album of dark, soulful rock with compelling melodies, off-kilter beats, and subtle electronic touches. Maybe not something you'd expect from one of the guys in OKGo.


Brightest Darkest Day

Label: Paracadute
US Release Date: 2013-04-09
UK Release Date: 2013-04-08

PYYRAMIDS is a duo made up of singer Drea Smith and OKGo bassist Tim Nordwind. He's the guy with the big glasses and beard who you might've mistaken for that band's singer if you just went by their videos. She's the vocalist for little-known and difficult-to-Google electro dance project He Say She Say. As PYYRAMIDS, both musicians are stepping outside of their respective comfort zones for an album of dark, soulful rock.

Brightest Darkest Day opens with a menacing intro track driven by a kick-drum and floor tom beat and low individual piano notes. After about a minute, a Farfisa organ sidles in and Smith coos "Ooooh" and "Oh" quietly around the beats. This wordless intro turns out to be a strong statement for the feel of the album as the following song, "Smoke and Mirrors", continues in the same vein. The beat that switches between thumping and slightly irregular,while buzzing bass and subtle electronics provide a solid bedrock for Smith's vocals. Her chorus of "Now I'm nothing at all" dominates the closing minute of the song.

A much different song comes next, with album highlight "Don't Go". The track is a showcase for Smith's singing, as she pleads with a lover, in public, not to leave her. But what sets the song apart is its unique feel, using marching band-style tom drums and xylophone to provide the mid-tempo beats along with a simple but effective bassline. The other top-notch track on the album comes near the end. "That Ain't Right" uses a rimshot beat and acoustic guitar riff to creepy effect, resembling Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" if it traded its six minutes of alternative prog-rock genius for a big soul chorus.

Smith's smoky singing and Nordwind's emphasis on making the beats slightly off-kilter from the norm give PYYRAMIDS a distinctive sound from the outset. This strong musical character helps lift even the band's more pedestrian material into something highly listenable. The fuzz bass-driven rocker "Do You Think You're Enough" benefits greatly from Smith's delivery and Nordwind's commitment to sticking with the fuzz tone throughout the whole song. "Paper Doll" is a typical quiet verse-loud chorus indie rock track, but the soaring chorus and shifting rhythm keep it lively.

But even when the band messes with their established sound, the results are fascinating. "Time" is little more than Smith singing with a simple piano accompaniment, but there are quiet electronic touches pushing in around the edges. These electronic elements plus the lack of a strong beat give the song a spacey, unmoored feel that's quite different from the rest of the album. Closer "Nothing I Can Say" similarly leaves out a strong beat to focus on Smith's voice, but gradually amps up the electronics until the vocals are buried and distorted in sea of auditory haze. It's a weird but effective way to finish the album.

Brightest Darkest Day succeeds by finding the right balance between its two members. Smith doesn't have to change up her vocal style much to fit into the more rock-oriented sound of PYYRAMIDS. Nordwind, on the other hand, de-emphasizes the power-pop hooks of OKGo while still finding compelling melodies. One of the more interesting aspects of OKGo's middling last album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, was the band's newfound emphasis on creative beats, and Nordwind definitely carries that focus into PYYRAMIDS. This is the sort of strong, musically ambitious side project that could easily end up being a long-term collaboration.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.