Has the indie world missed the Lovers’ boat? Under the radar may be an understatement for Portland, Oregon’s synth-pop trio. That will no doubt change following their latest release Dark Light, a moving, heart-on-the-sleeve trek through singer Carolyn Berk’s personal journal. With Dark Light, Berk accomplishes something that few true grit songwriters do today successfully: turn genuine, introspective emotion to hummable pop.
Lovers’ melodies are indeed made for lovers, the lyrics not so much. The sugary electro-pop from synth-programmer Kerby Ferris and percussionist Emily Kingan gets a bitter turn from Berk’s aching words: “You hold on, dear/Like a barnacle on a ship of fears/And I’m out here like an island on a sea of tears.” (from “Barnacle”).
Dark Light obviously plays to a female audience, but probably won’t scare the boys too far away. The album is soft throughout and endearing enough for the biting lyrics to go almost unnoticed. It’s that sweet and sour element of Dark Light that fuels the album’s core. It’s slow-paced synth-pop is the veil that covers Dark Light’s real beauty: Berk’s pained delivery.
It’s a wonder whether Dark Light’s muse is a single source of distress or a comprehensive history of Berk’s lovelorn life. It may not mater. What does matter is the pain felt across Dark Light, most evident in favorites “Boxer,” “Peppermint,” and closer “Cedar Falls.” As shattered as Berk comes across with Dark Light, her story is not a sad one. Instead, it’s one of letting go and starting anew. It may or may not be her breakup album. That’s left to the listener to decide.