Darlings seems like just the right name for Kevin Drew’s second solo album. The Canadian musician and former Broken Social Scene co-founder released his first solo effort, Spirit If… in 2007, which included original material that reflected the experimental, eclectic, slightly rough around the edges sound that Broken Social Scene listeners would recognize and love. And it wasn’t surprising, given that the album cover read, “Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew,” situating him under the band’s umbrella even as he was venturing out on his own. But on Darlings, Drew takes a few steps further away, crafting a sound that’s more uniquely his own. Instead of the somewhat scruffy, intensely earnest music of BSS and his solo debut, now Drew comes off as mellowed-out and effortlessly cool, an indie darling who’s traded a sometimes muddled baroque sound for super chill synth-pop.
The album begins with “Body Butter,” where pulsing synths and an acoustic guitar amble above slow percussion in a tale about the mutability of love. “I know my love was here for a minute,” Drew sings. “It goes on and off and on and off.” Like the relationship in question, the song doesn’t ever quite go anywhere, but marches in place. Two songs of seduction follow. “Good Sex” is first, whose wholesome sound of airy synths and warm, persistent piano belie its racy subject00 especially with lyrics like, “Good sex / it never makes you feel clean”. Next is “It’s Cool,” where Drew lets his vocals get low and about as sultry as a thirtysomething rock musician’s singing can get over inconspicuously descending guitar riffs, subtly mimicking the song’s narrator, who “reach[es] our hand down below our waist.”
Other tracks veer in different directions. “Mexican Aftershow Party,” the album’s single, is percussive with a low, thrumming bassy synth melody, while “Bullshit Ballad” begins with bubbly synths and a heavy, distorted bass before picking up into a more typical pop-rock track. And “You Gotta Feel It” also picks up the pace, with shaken percussion, xylophone-like synths, and even a flute. More than any other song, “You Gotta Feel It” cements the feeling that Drew is being happy but chill and slightly detached, playing it cool and not showing too much enthusiasm or verve.
Darlings is certainly a light album—it has none of the emotive songs one might expect from a former member of Broken Social Scene, but there’s nothing wrong with that. On “My God,” Drew sings, “it’s not a holding pattern, baby / Just wait and see.” As Kevin Drew evolves as a songwriter and moves even further out on his own, we can expect good things to come—if we wait and see.