Review by Sem
The Darlings come roaring back with their third full-length album, Made of Phantoms. This album is also made of passion. Indeed, ghosts of fractured and frustrated relationships haunt this release.
“No Sunshine” is a rocking opener with singer and guitarist Buddy Darling’s vocals keeping pace with the frenetic guitars, bass, and drums. The high energy and confessional lyrics replete with themes of escape and the possibility of danger lurking (e.g. “Get Outta Yer Own Way” from the eponymous song; “It’s too late/can’t get away” from “There’s a Madman Livin’ in Waco”; and “Everybody got a way down but nobody got a way out” from “Evangeline”) continue. “Mr. Morgan Crow” is one of the standout tracks on which the band excels in powerfully capturing the emotions of longing and regret with one of their pithiest lyrics (“the dead always wins”) to date. “Evangeline” is another highlight, with guest vocals from Jason Cruz, of the punk band Strung Out, soulfully complementing the rest of the band, adding yet another layer of gravitas and pathos. “Luv Story” deftly incorporates metaphor. The emotional energy of the album is impressively maintained, mounting on “Hummingbird Wings,” followed by a needed break in the tension on the beautiful instrumental “With Love, from Rue Morgan.” The album concludes with the jarring, “Unexplained…and Worse; the ending of the song with static, laughter, and then angry dialogue gives the impression of someone being emotional spent with nothing left to say, at least for now.
Consistent with the band’s description of their style, the album effectively blends punk, alternative sounds, rock, and even country (especially on “Obsession Road.”). Their self-described influences of “Against Me!” “The Clash” and “Nirvana” (among others) are evident but the sound is also reminiscent of the passionate confession of Soundgarden as well as more recently, the Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys.
The production team of Buddy Darling and Andy Carpenter has helped create a more cohesive album than the band’s earlier recordings, which sometimes sounded cacophonous and chaotic. They are now consistently integrating their skillful storytelling with their uncompromising powerful sound. I am excited to hear what else The Darlings are made of on their future releases.
Listen to "Mr. Morgan Crow" and "Evangeline"