Darwin Deez - Songs For Imaginative People

A lucid collection of stories and themes with layers and perceptible depth.

Label: Lucky Number

Rating: 7

Sometimes a change in location and environment is just the inspiration a songwriter needs to spark the creative process. For Darwin Smith, upping sticks and leaving the hustle of New York for Asheville in his home state of North Carolina was the catalyst. The result, ‘Songs For Imaginative People’, is a follow up album that significantly expands on the promise shown on his self-titled debut.

While ’Darwin Deez’ felt like a charming, yet slight collection of basic indie pop songs, ’Songs For Imaginative People’ sounds like a proper album. A lucid collection of stories and themes with layers and perceptible depth; produced and crafted unlike the primitive sounds of the debut which was largely single-paced with many songs sharing similar tempos. A number of the songs here are characterised by off-kilter jerky rhythms and vocal melodies that spiral off on all sorts of curious tangents. The clattering junk shop beats clashing against perky guitar slashes of ‘You Can’t Be My Girl’ is a typical example of the amorphous quality on show.

This album is infinitely more developed. There is a real sense of Smith genuinely expressing himself through the number of strutting guitar solos and melodic flourishes. Indeed, freedom and freedom of expression are two key themes. It is a record that poses oblique questions in amongst peerless indie pop. Smith is a diverse and fascinating character and more of that quality is present this time around, questioning life and the role of the individual in society and the changing societal norms that are ever fluctuating. Opening track ‘(800) Human’ sees him howling, ‘What’s it like to be human?’ a rage-fuelled ode to existentialism in the face of an overpoweringly technological society. The best thing about ‘Songs…’ is in taking themes like this and turning them into short, sharp, brilliant songs.

Of course, in the world of Darwin Smith love and relationships are also at the heart of everything. The astonishingly good bruised slow jam ’Redshift’ is a yearning lament to the overwhelming power of love, Smith singing about a girl who “loves all my little quirks” before solemnly proclaiming, “the universe is mostly empty space.’ Arguably even better is the closing track ‘Chelsea’s Hotel.’ This song clearly displays Smith’s increasing ability as a lyricist. It is full of lovely turns of phrase and witty wordplay, which compels you to listen. A simple line like, “I’ve been homeless since the dimples on her simple face” becomes tremendously affecting.

‘Songs For Imaginative People’ is a triumph. As the title suggests, the album enables you to forge your own ideas and interpretations of the songs and their themes. As such, it should endure far longer than his debut.