Album Review: Kevin Drew – ‘Darlings’

On his second studio album, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene is both more confident and more laid back than he’s ever been. If there’s a mood to go with Darlings, his second record as a solo performer, it’s calm—Drew turns off his mind, relaxes and floats downstream for eleven tracks of chilled out indie rock that never bores, even if it relies on relatively few tools to deliver its message.
Though Darlings is a simpler record than Drew’s solo debut, Spirit If…, it’s also more mature, a casual and sun soaked LP of soft spoken verses and subtle lyrics.
The album’s designated radio single, “Good Sex,” appears early on in the tracklist, and it’s a sweaty, summery ode to the natural, pre-Internet connections of yesteryear. Drew plays it half-straight: it’s a tongue in cheek delivery of a heartfelt message, and there’s both parody and passion in his refrain “I’m still breathing with you, baby.” Expect to hear this track on local radio stations for the next few months—especially with the weather starting to improve.

Elsewhere, Drew seems to snap out of his self-imposed sleepwalk, as in “Bullshit Ballad,” a distinctly Broken Social Scene-esque romp that veers as close as any song on the album to dance pop.
But overall, Darlings is a record for early mornings, late afternoons and post-midnight makeout sessions. Drew’s vocals are hushed and understated, like a half-drunk Lou Reed, and his lyrics often follow suit. “It’s Cool,” in particular, reminds of the former Velvet Underground’s spontaneous spoken word style, while the gravelly, hungover haze of slow jam “My God” is haunted by the ghost of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot era Wilco.
Elsewhere, Drew’s stripped-down style makes for some of the strongest tracks he’s ever written. “First In Line,” the album’s hidden gem, is a perfect arpeggiated articulation of the album’s late summer charm, and the sprechgesang spirit of “Mexican Aftershow Party” is pure liquid cool.

Drew’s co-conspirator Feist even shows up for a duet in “You In Your Were,” a texture-heavy synth parade which deftly explores memory and loss. Feist’s expressive vocal is a perfect foil for Drew’s monotone drawl, and the song rivals the best material either artist contributed as Broken Social Scenesters.
The song’s instrumentals—subliminal bass lines, unobtrusive strings, syncopated drum beats—are par for the course in the indie rock world, but what other records do well, Darlings does beautifully. The guitar work on the record is particularly strong, somehow managing a laid-back beachgoer atmosphere that never seems lazy or overly ironic.
Songs bleed into one another naturally, but the record rarely feels repetitive or banal. One can almost imagine Drew pulling out his guitar at a drunken campfire sing-along
Drew doesn’t make any big statements on Darlings, but its laissez-faire attitude and lighthearted tone send the message loud and clear: play me on summer road trips, self-conscious beach parties, and third dates. As long as we’re waiting for a new Broken Social Scene record to surface, Darlings will do just fine.

Max Hill (@maxjameshill)

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