When they’re not touring up and down the East Coast, the members of Winona Lake, Indiana’s own Darkroom stay busy writing and recording batches of stirring yet atmospheric songs, catchy enough to pull you in right away but full of interesting sonic details that reward multiple listens. Their latest long player, A Curious Excavation, certainly succeeds on several levels. Hopeful, vulnerable and powerful at the same time, this is one of those rare releases from the region that combines songwriting and production chops for a satisfying listen (and the packaging and artwork are ace as well). A Curious Excavation is brimming with pealing, ringing electric guitars, humming background keyboard pads and darting, powerful drumming. It’s augmented by some tasty atmospheric extras that give Darkroom’s introspective yet epic sound added dimension. The recording quality here is first class, and a lot of effort obviously went into every aspect of the album’s creation.
“Afraid” brings to mind the best of pre-major-label Death Cab for Cutie, with both earnest emotional honesty and sonics. The song is pinned to its rhythm by a steady, distant hammer-like beat, only to blossom into full-band-driven peaks at key moments. The nuanced command over dynamics and texture shown by Darkroom here is wonderful, and it’s completely in service to the song. The vaguely Radiohead-esque (early rock-era, not bleep-era) vibe pervades the piano-driven “The Best Part,” which manages to invite introspection while soaring. By the time the arena-approved crunch guitars enter near the end of the tune you’re sucked in. Other highlights include the waltzing “Blanketed Fortress,” which gives you a peek at what American Music Club might have sounded like with a more positive, grounded attitude.
Most of the songs on A Curious Excavation reside in the subdued, mid-tempo realm, without any jarring disruptions. It’s consistent and entertaining, while its lyrical content and instrumentation dig beneath the surface enough to keep things interesting. You can find out more about Darkroom (and an upcoming EP they’ve been working on) at www.myspace.com/darkroommusic.