Darker My Love – Alive as You Are

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When California’s Darker My Love released their album 2 in 2008, you could definitely feel the psychedelic history of their home state coming through.  But, we fast forward to the present day, and it seems that their take on California rock has swayed a bit, moving into a different, albeit better, direction.  The new album Alive as You Are charts new territory, and while it may surprise old fans, it’s not to be dismissed.

Listening to lead track “Backseat” you find a fresher version of the band, one that is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, if you extracted excess amounts of hippy.  It’s got a hint of the same drug culture, yet feels like the eternal setting of California.  This song even features some pseudo-jam guitar solos, though none that will make you drool in your beard while rocking the same solo for six hours a la Jerry Garcia.

While the album does seem steeped in the history of American folk/jam/whatever, it still has a presence that is pertinent to the modern music scene. “Split Minute” uses a deeper toned vocal atop the same crisp guitar sound found in the opening minutes, which sort of brings to mind bands like Blitzen Trapper, yet with the right amount of restraint, and none of the bravado–all good things from this end. It all leads to the early high-point for Alive as You Are, as “New America” just flat out wins.  It’s got a bit of a meandering guitar line throughout, but the half-sung vocal really establishes a casual mood.  What really pushes the song into the winner category is the chorus near the end, which just wraps the song up in this great little crashing harmony.

It’s odd, but even those who aren’t fans of the San Francisco roots music, such as myself, will probably find themselves digging deeper and deeper into the carefully crafted melodies that are evident throughout.  Slide guitars don’t even do much to dissuade listeners, and songs like “Trail the Line” are the perfect example of how, if executed properly, this style of music can remain vital and fresh in today’s world.  Amazing choruses seem par for the course on this record by Darker My Love.  The delivery of the words “please make up your mind, for me” just hit you in the face at precisely the right time, and nothing can go wrong for the band at this late juncture.

If you’re looking for detractors, you’ll be hard pressed to find one, though surely this album would be more successful during the late autumnal season, as opposed to the sweltering summer months.  And, yes, it does appear to drag in a few spots, but Alive as You Are succeeds on so many different levels that its remarkable to even think of this as the same band from a few years ago. I don’t know, but it makes me want to go listen to Neil Young.  Darker My Love have a dark name, and dark imagery projected on their cover, but everything about this record is warm and bright, making it one hell of an album, no matter what time of year you listen to it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/07-Trail-The-Line.mp3]

Download: Darker My Love – Trail The Line [MP3]

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