Album Review :
Darkroom - Stay Here With Me (For Better or for Worse)

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Artist: Darkroom
Album: Stay Here With Me (For Better or for Worse)
Label: Indie
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Acrobat
  2. Time Traveler
  3. Russel’s Secret
  4. My Window
  5. A Child’s Song
  6. Orual
  7. Stay Here With Me
  8. Simple Mistake
  9. Promises
  10. Ask Me Twice
  11. Twenty Something
  12. Etcetera

Darkroom have released their second album on their own accord and it will no doubt be one of the underrated releases of the year. Stay Here With Me (For Better or for Worse) is the latest addition to the indie rock genre with a heavy blend of many unique instruments leading the way. The days of a typical lineup consisting of a singer, drummer, guitarist, and bass player are going the way of the dinosaur as people grow weary of the same ol’ structure. Nowadays you see more bands branching out and adding more to create a unique experience. The difficulty in that is making it all flow together without seeming overwhelming or disjointed. That is where Darkroom will surprise people as they show a deft ability to fuse all of these elements into one cohesive album.

‘Acrobat’ starts things off with a unique circus inspired drumbeat and a light dose of horns in the background. The guitars are crisp and clear throughout the album and that really helps given all the sounds going on at once. Distortion would ruin what Darkroom is trying to accomplish. ‘Time Traveler’ showcases Corey’s very passionate and emotive vocals that are reminiscent of Jars of Clay and Sleeping at Last. In fact, if you are a fan of either of those bands then there is a great chance you will dig Darkroom’s material. He can carry a song all on his own, as he does with ‘Time Traveler’. This happens often throughout the album with ‘Russel’s Secret’ being another example. The swirling guitars add to the tapestry of sounds as well. It’s hard not to appreciate all the instruments working together with frequent appearances by trumpets, strings, and even the beloved xylophone. The brilliant piano playing in ‘My Window’ has to be mentioned too.

Of course, a talented voice could go to waste if there weren’t interesting and addictive vocal hooks to stick in your head. In some cases, when a song is a bit low key, like ‘Orual’, it is saved by memorable hooks. Another bonus are the often poignant and sometimes cryptic lyrics. One of my favorite sections is in ‘A Child’s Song’ at the end as Corey pushes his voice to new heights with the music gone and sings, “Jesus give me strength to stay. And now that you know that underneath this skin is a cowardly soul without a prayer. You’re better now than before.” Most songs cover topics that people typically run into in their search for God including fighting materialism, false love, and confining God in a box for our own personal gain. Through it all there’s a message of perseverance that fits the upbeat music.

It is always unfortunate when an album starts off strong and comes to a crawl down the stretch. This one is definitely front-loaded and by the time you get to ‘Promises’ you start to wonder how much longer is left. This isn’t to say the songs are horrible, but rather the overall sound that Darkroom have crafted doesn’t change a whole lot across the twelve tracks. If some of the catchier, upbeat songs were spread out into the second half this wouldn’t be as noticeable. The later ones are softer and more calculated. Even so, the lack of balance doesn’t hurt the album enough to cause one to lose interest entirely. Those aforementioned unique instruments are enough to keep the listener attentive and curious to find out where a song will go next.

Overall: Aside from the slightly off balanced tracklisting, this album is a highlight in its genre. The focus is on the flow of the various instruments and how they compliment a talented voice. Stay Here With Me (For Better or for Worse) isn’t about brutally assaulting your ears or getting you to head bang to distorted riffs. It’s about painting a tapestry of what life brings to all of us with a brilliant palette of colorful sounds. Albums like this have their place in a world so focused on the negative events in life.

Gems of this album are: ‘Acrobatic’, ‘Time Traveler’, ‘Russel’s Secret’, ‘A Child’s Song’, ‘Orual’

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