Usually one song isn’t enough to trigger interest in a given band, but Deep Dark Woods are the kind of unique sound indie rock band that can win over fans at first listen. Their latest album Jubilee is a timeless collection of emotional music that is just as good on an intense focused listen or as backdrop to something different. It’s not the kind of music that begs strong comparisons with the great artists of the past, but it does feel classic in a way.
The track “18th of December” has the twangy guitars that were characteristic of 70s folk rock music. It’s got both a western ramblin’ man sound as well as a Cohen-esque storytelling vibe. “This heart of mine is breaking and I’m filled with regret.” It’s about an adventurous relationship and desiring to be with someone. It’s a true romance song. It’s got a full sound, complete with an unapologetically powerful organ. So groovy.
“Gonna Have a Jubilee” is a classic country track that puts listeners in mind of the after hours strum session from an old honky tonk country rambler. Not only is it the track that inspired the title of the album, it’s also the very heart of the album. It’s stripped down and raw in its intro, but when the full band comes in with group vocal harmonies and a backing organ, the song becomes quintessential Deep Dark Woods. It’s the sound that is not just a mimickry of some earlier era, but rather provides a nice gesture of gratitude toward those earlier styles while forging its own distinctive sound. This song, completely with its gospel references and beautiful chord progressions, is an easy song of the year candidate.
The harmonies on “East St. Louis” almost make up for its tragic lyric qualities, but not quite. It’s such a profoundly sad song. Again the organ and harmonies define the track. The melancholic “A Voice is Calling” really fits well with the rest of the album. Although a slight change in sound and ethos, the overall blend of organ, piano, and haunting lead vocals contribute to a classic Americana sound. “She’s no longer with me but I don’t seem to care at all.” It’s a heartbreak song with a deeply sad message. Definitely not a toe-tapper, but still an engaging song. The steel guitar sneaks in for a nice southern flavor. It might not be the top-40 kind of hit, but it’s a song to be reckoned with (in all connotations of that word).
The cleverly titled, “I took to whoring” highlights country acoustic guitars. It’s the kind of song that would do the classic country songwriters like George Jones proud. It makes listeners feel both comfortable and a bit unsettled at the same time. Paced like a slow dance song, the track is hardly a love story. The following “It’s Been a Long Time” is also slow, but has an optimistic whistle in the beginning. Seemingly another part of the same story, it’s a nostalgic song. The lead singer’s vocal hits a beautiful bass note in the melody line that gives the listener chills. The optimistic whistle gets enveloped by a deep depressive ethos through most of the track, but the overall sound is comfortable, like a cozy fireplace in the winter; it’s only by the cold outside that the fire feels so warm.
“Bourbon Street” brings back memories for everyone whose been on the song’s namesake in New Orleans. A toe-tapper that sounds like it could have ported from the late 60s, it’s a fun indie rock groove. “I wonder why I feel this way with a musical sea raining down on me.” Reflective of the music scene in the Crescent City, it’s a good feel good song on an otherwise sad album.
The penultimate track “The Beater” is a delightfully melancholic and dark song. It begs forgiveness and acceptance. Given the title, it’s probably about reconciliation amidst domestic violence. It’s definitely not an easy song to connect with for most, and for those who can connect it’s probably either very cathartic or very disturbing. The last track “The Same Thing” carries a slightly less weighty message. It’s about the hope of a love that might blossom (or return). Again it’s the organ, electric guitars, and eerie lead vocal that makes the song work.
All told this is a great album. It will have the sort of cult-like following that will generate fans who either thing it’s amazing, or who can’t stand it. The polarizing sound is far from the popular stylings prevalent in the current music landscape. In some sense, the Addams Family organ sound inspired me to create a new term for this music. The Deep Dark Woods are country noir (with a hat tip to the literary style by the same name). Feel free to pass it on. You heard it hear first. Fans of dark music influenced by classic Americana sonic structures need to give the Deep Dark Woods a sincere listen.