Rating – 7/10
Darker Days is the eighth album by indie-pop group Peter Bjorn and John, released Oct. 19, 2018 to generally positive reviews. Despite the gloomy title, Darker Days is filled with bright, easily accessible songs that signal a return to basics for the trio. From the beginning of the album on, Darker Days takes on a unique sound due to the way it uses space. By using minimal instrumentation, the songs are filled with empty space that allows the music to echo and fill out the sonic space.
The album opens with “Longer Nights”, a 55 second Hammond organ solo that serves as an intro and sets the mood for the album. The Hammond organ is used all throughout Darker Days, and the final track, “Heaven and Hell”, concludes with a Hammond organ solo, serving as a bookend to the album.
“One for the Team”, the second song, takes influences from early soul music with a heavy bass riff and an upbeat feel that matches the communal themes of the lyrics. Peter Moren sings “It’s a team, it’s a team/I’m the keeper of the scene/But I don’t wanna play this part alone”. The next song on Darker Days, “Every Other Night”, represents the album’s title more accurately, even if the music remains fast paced. John Eriksson seems to go back and forth between sadness and hope as he sings about regret (“Kicking myself at night”) and confidence (“I believe that we can make it”). This dichotomy between optimism and depression is evident throughout the album; even as the music remains energetic, there is some sense of underlying sadness in the instrumentation.
Other standout tracks include “Gut Feeling”, which uses vocal loops to fill the space of the song expertly, and “Silicon Valley Blues”, which comments on the complications of modern life with technology. Darker Days is not a perfect record, however. Several songs have a repetitive nature to them, especially “Living the Dream”, which seems to go on forever. The largest crime this album commits is not being memorable. The tracks are expertly produced, but sound so similar they often blend together. None of the songs particularly stand out save for “Gut Feeling”, “Dark Ages”, and “Every Other Night”.
Each member of Peter Bjorn and John was responsible for writing and producing his own tracks, so it is surprising that Darker Days is such a cohesive work. Using unique instruments such as a Hammond organ and a cowbell give the album a unique sound, even if it is not very memorable. For fans of more upbeat indie music, this is definitely worth a listen; even if the album as a whole does not stick with the listener, there will be at least one or two tracks that truly stand out.
Favorite Tracks: “Gut Feeling”, “Dark Ages”, “Silicon Valley Blues”
Darker Days is streaming everywhere now.