Kevin Drew - Darlings

by Ethan Ranis Rating:8 Release Date:2014-03-24

Frequently, when singers split off from their main band to pursue solo projects, they take the opportunity to craft an entirely new sound. Not so with Kevin Drew, erstwhile co-leader of the sort-of-on-hiatus-but-not-really Broken Social Scene. Darlings, Drew's second solo record, is fairly of a piece with the more electronic, atmospheric side of the BSS canon (think ‘Sentimental Xs’ or ‘Hotel’), layered with pillowy synths and spacious reverb.

Much like some of the more outré songs in BSS’s discography (see ‘I’m Still Your Fag’, ‘Me and My Hand’), much of the first half of Darlings is pretty overtly sexual, which might make some listeners uncomfortable. This content seems tied to a clear R&B influence in the deep bass and reverb. That said, provided you don't have qualms with the content, there's a lot here to like.

The production is the highlight on much of the album. ‘Mexican Aftershow Party’ features a synth-bass growl which gradually transforms into a lush string section. ‘Bullshit Ballad,’ with its clipped vocal sample and distorted growl, briefly sounds reminiscent of recent Vampire Weekend before a classic rock guitar-line takes over. ‘My God’’s prominent use of Rhodes and a plinking bassline make it sound of a piece with some of My Morning Jacket’s and M. Ward’s more sedate tunes, but strange, glitchy snippets in the right channel and pinging percussion set it apart.

The reason the album falls a bit short of greatness is that a lot of the songs feel less than fully-fleshed-out. 'First in Line,' for example, cuts off far earlier than I would hope. While it initially seems like it will build to a full-out anthem, it suddenly gives up just before reaching that point. 

‘You in Your Were’ is probably the closest thing to a single here (especially given Feist’s guest appearance) but despite its bursting toms, it still feels a tad underwritten. Basically, it feels like a little more work would have made some of these songs absolute classics, though Drew’s new commitment to brevity (only one of these songs goes over five minutes) is actually rather laudable.

That said, the album’s loose-limbed, late-night-into-early-morning vibe is generally pretty pleasant, and the production touches just weird enough to work. Overall, this is a cozy, feel-good album. It's a perfect soundtrack to the 3am comedown from a long night of partying.

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