Douglas Armour: The Light of a Golden Day, the Arms of the Night

LA songwriter Douglas Armour splits his debut right down the middle: one half, trebly, watery dance pop, the other trebly, slightly less watery bedroom pop.

Douglas Armour

The Light of a Golden Day, the Arms of the Night

Label: Social Registry
US Release Date: 2008-05-20
UK Release Date: 2008-05-20

The Social Registry label has long been known for arty, experimental bands like Gang Gang Dance, Sian Alice, and Growing -- challenging, rule-breaking outfits that sometimes fail but even then do so in an arresting, thought-provoking way. It’s an outpost for edgy, dissonant musical bomb-throwing to the point where some reviewers (okay me) will gladly sign up for whatever they’re peddling. Douglas Armour, an LA-based electro songwriter, fits into this aesthetic uncomfortably to say the least. If his whisker-thin pop breaks a rule at all, it’s the rule that Social Registry’s bands should be interesting.

Even on CD, it’s clear that Armour’s first full length has two sides. Side A, everything through “Trembling on the Verge”, is synthetic-rhythmed dance pop, like Junior Boys but smaller-scale. Side B, starting with “Flushed and Flamelike Themselves” and running through the final “The Mystery It Never Lasts”, is guitar-scrubbing indie pop (with synthesizers, admittedly). Let’s take them one at a time.

There’s precedent, obviously, for blending the sad, literate sincerity of indie pop with robot-funky rhythms. Junior Boys, Hot Chip, Kelley Polar, and about a 100 other bands all mess with the formula to some extent, blending varying proportions of booty-skank and poetry. To my mind, no one does it much better than Khaela Maricich of the Blow, and if you listen to her for five minutes, you’ll immediately see what’s missing from Armour’s music: thump. If you want the girls to dance to your tales of middle-class, overeducated alienation, you’ve got to put the drums and bass somewhere up near the front. Armour’s “Fall Apart Again,” the standout from his Pet Shop Boys side, is all treble sounds – slushy disco cymbals, piano, falsetto’d vocals and synth. With almost no bass, it sounds unmoored and inconsequential, the kind of thing you might shuffle clumsily to on the dance floor without ever really catching a groove. Now contrast that with the Blow's “Parentheses”, which slams you so hard with rhythm that you hardly hear the lyrics, good as they are, until the third or fourth time. Or compare this cut with Hercules & Love Affairs glossy, disco-tinged “This Is My Love”, also heavy on the cymbals and high, keening synth but bounded by pulsing, body-moving bass. It sounds denser and more important.

The indie pop side of The Light of the Golden Day, the Arms of the Night works a lot better, because no one expects much visceral, hip-shaking sensuality from this kind of music. There’s a relaxed, sunny Sea & Cake breeziness to “The Whole World”, its falsetto croons paced and shaped by a persistent rhythm. “Flushed and Flamelike Themselves,” has a nice, synth-aided surge to its chorus of “I can’t live one minute without you,” evoking bands like Maps and maybe even the Cure. “Prince of Wands”, the best of these pop-leaning songs, dips even more into the Robert Smith sound, with its percolating, subtle guitar and (finally) a groundswell of bass.

Still even the best of these tracks seems undistinguished, not exactly bad, but not different enough from a million other songs to justify listening. This is tepid, also-ran stuff from a label that should really know better.







Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

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.