Sunday, March 7, 2010

Music Box

It takes most bands a while to find their sound, one that's unique to them only, one that you would recognize immediately upon hearing. I would confidently say that a lot of bands will get it right on their second or third album, and some bands just never find it at all. On the rare occasion, we get bands like Hamilton-based trio Dark Mean who seem to have completely skipped those metaphorically awkward pubescent years of being a band. They seem to know exactly who they are and what they sound like. They have only just released their second EP, Music Box, and already they've got a truly wonderful, distinct soundprint.

In four tracks, Music Box captures Dark Mean's signature style of composing songs that are strikingly powerful, and at the same time soothingly restrained by the most delicate of melodies. There is a bit of a surreal quality to it, set most notably by an experimental blend of guitars, piano, banjo and strings, and it's all tied together by a voice that's both familiar and sincere. If you've had the chance to listen to their first EP, frankencottage, you'll know just what to expect from Music Box. The first and title track is both pretty and dreamlike, even disregarding the idyllic lyrics about dreaming and waking up to songs, probably sweet and pleasant just like this one. Piano & Beat follows up as the second track with a richer, darker tone and dynamics that shift from the almost chaotic swelling of instruments to a soft solo. And still, it flows seamlessly from note to note. Completing the EP are more subdued third and fourth tracks, Acoustic and Dark Banjo, an aptly titled, haunting response to the first EP's "Happy Banjo". Collectively this little batch of songs is standout among EPs. It's beautiful to listen, no matter how many times you listen.

Dark Mean - Music Box (mp3) (Get the full EP FREE!)
Dark Mean - Dark Banjo (mp3) (Get the full EP FREE!)

While I don't want to overstress how unique I think Dark Mean's sound is, it's something that I haven't gotten over since hearing them for the first time during the summer of last year. Rarely do I get introduced to a band that I have difficulty comparing to any other. It's a real treat when it happens.

Dark Mean are planning to release their full-length debut, The Constant K Determines the Ultimate Fate of the Universe, later this year. It will include some of their tracks off their first two EPs as well as a handful of new ones. In the meantime, you can download both EPs for free by visiting their official site.

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