Jason Darling

Night Like My Head

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Although it starts off innocuously with a folksy/strummy guitar, Jason Darling's second album, Night Like My Head, then shifts into more experimental waters. Homebrewed synths and drum machines soon dominate songs like "Angels Down," giving a sort of spacy, futuristic take on the singer/songwriter territory he stakes out. But things really take a strange turn with the rapping that dominates "Lost Desert Motel." It's Beck-like in a "Loser" way, especially when Darling adds bluesy acoustic slide guitar, but it's also unique and hypnotic. Possibly too eclectic for his own good, Darling adds enough of his own voice to these songs to create a diverse but intriguing portrait of his influences. With his delicate everyman, talk/singing voice he writes tunes that twist and shake in soft yet sturdy perimeters that become clear only after the entire album is heard. Individually the songs are pleasant but slight. Yet the total effect is more substantial, and defiantly indie. "All instruments touched at some point or other by Jason Darling," explain the liner notes, and it sounds it. Darling's subtle approach is almost too low-key at times. On the winsome New York City memoir "Jet Lag," you wish he'd sound a little less retiring, as he barely whispers the words over gauzy, layered guitars and a steady drumbeat that nudges the song forward. The piano-dominated "Living Hell" also describes life in N.Y.C. with a gentle, almost Steely Dan-ish approach. Nothing here will knock you off your feet, but Darling is clearly a gifted artist with the vision and potential to -- with a slightly larger budget -- create a minor masterpiece next time out. Night Like My Head isn't it, but the album is strong enough to show the brains and talent underneath this meek exterior.

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