The sophomore effort from Georgia-raised, Britain-based vocalist Kristina Train, 2012's Dark Black is a brooding, atmospheric collection of slow-burn pop songs that put her burnished, sultry croon at the fore. Picking up where 2009's Spilt Milk left off, Dark Black finds Train once again working with British singer/songwriter Ed Harcourt, as well as songwriter/producer Martin Craft. Together, they've come up with an album that builds upon Train's twangy Southern roots layered with a baroque, cinematic aesthetic. Train's vocals are often drenched in an echo-chamber sound, often backed with boomy, resonant percussion, languid piano parts, eerie orchestral sections, shimmering baritone guitar lines, and even some light electronic flourishes. In that sense, the album brings to mind the work of such similarly minded contemporaries as singer/guitarist Richard Hawley and neo-soft rock singer Rumer as much as it does the classic soul-inflected '60s sound of Dusty Springfield. While the songs here are deeply romantic and memorable, they take their time to unfold before giving up any big, melodic hooks -- which they certainly have. Mood setting is clearly a large part of Train's dramatic style, and cuts like the yearning, Roy Orbison-sounding "Dream of Me" and the Jacques Brel-esque ballad "Saturdays Are the Greatest" envelope you with a kind of late-afternoon melancholy, long before they level you with their heartbreaking lyrical poignancy. Ultimately, on Dark Black, Train is a master at keeping us on the edge of our seats, and by the time she presents a song's big pop reveal, as she does on the title track's darkly ironic reappropriation of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale," she already has us hooked.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar