Slowly replacing the spandex-clad, ultra feminine pop stars of the early 2000s is a new breed of unabashed, bold female musicians like Nona Marie Invie, the feminist front-woman of Minneapolis-based folk-pop band Dark Dark Dark. The harmonious contrast between Invie’s dauntless she-power and fellow band leader Marshall LaCount’s shamelessness in his openly gay sexuality could be the key ingredients to the eclectic sound the band has hand-crafted over the course of three full-length albums.
Aside from the individuality of the band’s seven members, Dark Dark Dark is known for its emboldened, spiced-up chamber-folk music with just a pinch of New Orleans jazz tones.
In Dark Dark Dark’s two previous albums, The Snow Magic (2008) and Wild Go (2010), the band’s striking personality radiated through and clashed in their music. The diverse instrumentation is difficult to take all at once, leaving listeners in a musical sugar coma.
Dark Dark Dark’s third album, Who Needs Who, strikes a balance between the exhaustive, individualistic nature that makes the first two albums bizarre, and the mundane, formulaic droning of the rest of folk-pop world. Every aspect of the music is more streamlined than listeners have experienced in albums past.
Invie fills the role of the primary vocalist on every track as opposed to the band’s usual pattern of alternating between the powerful folk-mistress and LaCount. The instrumentation, while still meticulous and intricate, is less random and inconsistent. Where previous Dark Dark Dark albums were borderline offensive to the ears, Who Needs Who is clean and organized. This makes Who Needs Who the most marketable and universally accessible album the band has produced to date. It provides enough flavor to keep listeners entertained, but is natural and organic enough.
The title track gently opens the album. Invie’s voice dances between eerie and painstakingly honest as she establishes her raw, almost uncomfortable vulnerability with the opening line, “Oh I have the memory of trust / I tried to keep it close.” Throughout the album, her pleasing, haphazard melodies swell and roll unevenly with the steady hammering of the piano and the whimsical slurring of the accordion. Invie’s trademark vocals dance their way across Dark Dark Dark’s stereotypically poetic phrasing.
Several tracks on the album — such as the jazzy and staccato “Without You” and the Florence + The Machine-esque “Hear Me” — point to the band’s gradual evolution from an inaccessible psychedelic-folk group to a marketable, yet still distinct, folk-pop group.
The album reaches an eventual climax with the powerful pop, or the Dark Dark Dark version of pop, track “Meet In The Dark.” It has characteristics listeners are accustomed to hearing in the group, such as the whimsical piano playing that opens the song, but includes some we haven’t yet seen. Backing harmonies serve as an effective platform to Invie’s pronounced lyrics as she boldly declares, “I will never get tired of singing these songs,” as the track comes to a close.
Who Needs Who’s robust tracks can stand alone, but flow together. It might be Dark Dark Dark’s version of stating that they are here to stay stay stay, and they are merely gaining momentum as they continue making music.
Printed on Monday, October 1, 2012 as: Folk-pop band stays dark, jazzy