The Grey Race

Give It Love

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New Zealand singer/songwriter Jon Darling -- little brother of Lilith Fair-era dream pop chanteuse Julia Darling -- resettled in Brooklyn and formed the Grey Race as an outlet for his pleasantly amorphous, largely minor-key tunes. Sounding very much at times like they should be one of the dozen or so spin-off bands from Broken Social Scene, Darling and collaborators Jeff Hill (a longtime member of Rufus Wainwright's backing band, to mention another obvious musical touchstone) and Ethan Eubanks create some impressive soundscapes for a mere trio. Vibes, piano, and all manner of stringed and percussion instruments shimmer across Darling's songs underneath his narcotic vocals, hiding some often cutting lyrics. A couple of songs, notably the jaundiced yet chipper-sounding "Goodbye to You" (which would fit neatly in Michael Penn's bag of sardonic lost-love songs), boost the overall energy level a bit, but overall, Give It Love is the sort of album that lulls the listener into a false sense of chamber pop security before the unsettling lyrics of songs like "Straight from the Middle" and "Cracks" seep in. Fans of recent solo albums from Broken Social Scene mainstays Kevin Drew and Emily Haines will find a similar blend of the lyrically sour and musically sweet here.

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