The tracklist of The Dark makes it clear this album isn’t going to be a light, upbeat journey; song titles like “Grave of Lost Hearts” and “The Last of a Ghost Town” hint at the melancholy within. Maines draws from the fairly traditional palette of guitar-based indie folk/rock, but he makes the most out of it, crafting beautifully gloomy atmospheres (“Grey Wolf”) and string-laden laments (“The Last of a Ghost Town”). Maines also makes good use of vocal harmonies, building ethereal choirs out of carefully layered voices in “Selective Rememories.”
But don’t worry: contrary to the title, this album isn’t THAT dark. The aforementioned “Selective Rememories” is jaunty and hopeful, and even ostensibly dark tracks like “Song of the Death Brigade” have a defiant energy propelling them forward. Maines keeps the tempos varied, preventing the album from sinking under its own melodramatic weight. “Golden Graves and Plastic Crowns” chugs along at a brisk pace, while late-album hidden gem “Amnesciaddict” is buoyed by a stately marching beat and lively vocals. Reminding listeners he isn’t a one-trick pony, Maines finishes off the album with a stylistic left-turn, the 7-minute instrumental piano piece “Finale Andante.” It’s an inspired move, providing this album with the cathartic closer it so evidently deserves.
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– Matt Diamond