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Album Review: Kevin Drew ‘Darlings’

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on March 28, 2014

Firstly, I’ll just say that I hadn’t heard Kevin Drew’s solo work until now, only Broken Social Scene. So I had no idea what to expect of Darlings.

It did take a few tracks to realise that the chaotic intensity of BSS would not be a feature of Darlings. I found myself patiently waiting for breakdowns, weird chord changes, or screeching reverb. It was a little confusing at first. But as I waded further into the water, it warmed up, and I began to really enjoy the album as a solo project, one which was different to BSS – but still retained some of the qualities that make them such a better indie band than most.

Drew hasn’t lost his brashness, his blatant lyrics and subject matter. First single, and second track Good Sex– it’s about good sex. “Good sex, it never makes you feel hollow, good sex, it never makes you feel clean”

I was surprised by how well each song flowed into the next. There were no radical changes from track to track – again, something which took a while to acclimatise to, but something I ultimately enjoyed. The beats, the instrumentation and the small specks and flicks of whizzes and glitches kept it different enough, while retaining a mild temperature throughout.

And Mexican Aftershow Party? That name made me giggle. Musically, it was my favourite track. It had a very ‘80s synth –pop feel, with the deep drums and a rich bass line. His ever-so-slightly syncopated singing, being just off time, coupled with sweet-yet-aggressive interrogation, “Do you know why I like to go to Mexican aftershow parties?… Did you just hear why I like to go to Mexican aftershow parties?” made it just so damn good. He really let the soundscape grow and expand in the bridge before bringing it back down, I loved that. And the tiny glitches at the end? A great track.

I found myself a little bored by the next couple tracks. You Gotta Feel It started off great, with a darker, industrial beat. The bass was super-low, and I admit that I wished the piano and vocals hadn’t been so uplifting. But that’s just me.

There were some great beats throughout the album, particularly noticeable thanks to the stripped back feel and the noted lack of guitar. Having those deeper beats beneath the otherwise soft music added a lot to each track. It was a big part of what made this more than just another indie-pop album.

Bullshit Ballad
was faster, punchy, it could have almost been a pop-punk song with that fast-beat-fast-vocals-verse and the louder-fuller-chorus, the breakdown-bridge and just-the-riff before heading back into verse. It was a fairly surprising addition to Darlings – not a bad thing.

The last couple tracks were really strong too. You Got Caught is lovely. It started slower, and without a beat. When it did come in, it was swingin’ and there was this amazing tonal variation between the bass drum and the rim taps. The slight feedback behind it filled the gaps, and the track built up slowly and surely. It was satisfying, without tipping itself over the edge.

I really like that Darlings has such a solid structure and cleanliness – certainly more than I expected. But, it’s retained a lot of Drew’s signature weirdness, which I liked even more. Those ambient build-ups in the background, the odd orchestral instrument thrown in for good measure along side the occasional glitch or twinkly synth flicks, harmonies that don’t quite fit, yet they add to the feel of the song. An echo here, a trickle of a piano lick there. It’s the little things.

It’s a really stripped back album. Kevin Drew in High Definition. The intensely personal lyrics, shifting between a longing to be alone and an invitation – at times, a yearning – to show his world to you, draws you in. We focus more on the words and the tone than the music. His whispers, his suppressed wails, the liquidity of his phrases.

I did feel that at times it was almost too restrained, too clean and withdrawn, for the sake of having a more structurally-understandable, low key album. But Kevin Drew is telling us his stories, and he does so bluntly and emotively, just like we’ve come to know and love. It’s not a ground-breaking album, but it’s good. It’s comfortable, really. There aren’t as many waves as I’d hoped for, but a calm ocean is good too.

For the record, one of my unapologetically guilty BSS pleasures right here


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