Written By: Darwin Green
Retro synth-rock has never felt more sinister. With a bias more toward electronica than rock, Dark Room Notes combines driving, aggressive beats with a yearning melancholy, creating the sense of angst and emotion one would feel a couple of months after breaking up with a significant other, after the initial rage and despair has worn off and one has some pent up energy ready to unleash. Each song explodes with intensity, like sex after a long dry spell.
With sometimes intricate melodies and female vocals delicately wafting through the mix, the album ranges from angry to ethereal, disco-funk to indie rock (these two elements appearing at the same time on the track “This Hot Heat”), dancing rhythms to contemplative mood structures.
The lead vocalist, Ronan Gaughan, pushes his way into the notes, his performance not quite mainstream but full of effort, somewhere between the manic Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and the arty Thurston Moore a la Sonic Youth. Spoon fans as well as Clash fans would probably love it for what it is, though some people might have a hard time stomaching it if used to clean, “perfect” vocals.
With the music, however, the craftsmanship and production quality exceed any criticism of whatever else one may find distracting or faulty. All elements of the music fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and at times the group exacts the most from each track, laying each one down with such precision that they the artistry equates to musical surgery with an experimental scalpel, done sometime between now and the 80’s.
The last song, “Treetops,” takes a more relaxed tone; a rest, perhaps, after the beating one takes after listening to the whole album. Put this album in the car on a long drive, and make sure this track ends on a long, windy road in the hills or on the seemingly infinite flat stretches of desert, and watch yourself listening to this album again.