In January Toronto indie rock quartet the Darcys just released their second of three albums, Aja, which is a reworking of the 1977 Steely Dan album, under the Arts & Crafts label. Having never heard of the group I decided to listen to the album with an open mind, however, it was quickly evident why I had never heard of The Darcys. The group suffered a huge setback after their first ever album was released when Kirby Best quit the band, but instead of the band throwing in the towel Jason Couse stepped up to take the role of lead vocalist. This may not have been the group’s best decision.
The album opens fairly strong with “Black Cow,” which features Couse’s soothing voice amid almost too-heavy organ chords. The second song in the album, “Aja,” continues to feature Couse’s voice but with both guitars and drums more prominent in the background. It’s obvious that these songs are heavily textured, but parts of “Aja” feel like they don’t mesh perfectly, and at over nine minutes long this song seems to drag on without end.
“Deacon Blues” follows, in a similar mood to the beginning of the album, while “Peg” comes as a delightful surprise with its catchy beat and great guitar riffs. There is a great instrumental harmony with the background vocals, and some good guitar solos. In general it’s an uplifting song.. “Home at Last” is similar to “Peg,” in that it continues with the layered guitar riffs and background drums, but falls short in comparison. The vocals continue to have an almost déjà-vu-like-feel but are overshadowed by an epic wall of sound during the guitar solo.
“I Got the News” follows, another catchy beat. Compared to the immense sound found in “Home at Last,” “I Got the News” is smooth and soft. Couse’s voice blends nicely with all other elements of the song. Continuing along the track list “Josie” contains completely different vocals. Instead of the almost alto sound Couse has consistently presented, “Josie” features a baritone and it’s a welcome change.
While Aja has some fairly good songs in it, the overall feel is occasionally chaotic: too many elements compete for dominance. The vocals are good but don’t seem to change much from song to song.
2.5 stars out of 5