Album Review: Darts, ‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’

Darts_belowemptywestwardbound_web

Darts Below Empty & Westward Bound
(Rice is Nice – May 15, 2015)
(Alternative)
Review by Luke Amick

With an interesting twist on what bears a striking resemblance to post-punk, Darts has — once again — crafted a volatile experience that’s a little too subjective to review. The explosive opening tracks are so quickly offset by the ambitious “Aeroplane” that it would be too easy to criticize the album’s “lack of direction.” However, in all the chaos there is a sort of miraculous cohesiveness that emerges from the entropy. It forms peaks and valleys which seem to be working towards a central theme (whatever it may be).

All the discombobulation can only be praised for its ambition to do something new and exciting, but does it work? The Sonic Youth sounding, Pixies go post punk quintet starts things off with the usual. “Comanche” and “Geek” complement one another with wailing vocals over instrumentals groovy enough for a CBGB throwback. Stick around for two more tracks and you’ll notice a dramatic change in style with the lo-fi single “Aeroplane.” Immediately I began to reminisce the long nights of my 15th year, when I played The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” on repeat. “Aeroplane” gives off the same sort of vibe, placing you into an involuntary, introspective melancholy.

Needless to say, this is the highlight of the album. Yet the band still has enough steam left to pull off two more consecutive tracks which place themselves in the same echelon: ambient yet infectious melodies dominate “Here is now” and “Below Empty”, which are just as satisfying as their predecessor. “Westward Bound” teases as a proper followup with an incredible intro, but falls flat on its face when the ridiculous vocals knock it from a solid eight to a passable five. Everything afterword is unfortunately trodden, and the album goes out with an anti-cathartic whimper.

So I reiterate: Does the album work as a whole? While it’s up for debate, I am a critic. So, without further ado, here are my arbitrary thoughts: To call Below Empty & Westward Bound Hit-or-Miss would be appropriate, but shallow. The creative force which drives Darts’ ambition has manifested something a little too unique for a single opinion to do it justice. Though personally Darts hits the bulls eye enough times for a proper salute, and I encourage you to experience the record for yourself. Who knows. Maybe you’ll agree with me; maybe I’m just a charlatan. This is one of the few times the critic inside me will be a push rather than a guide. Essentially, I’m telling you to think for yourselves, damnit..

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