Review Summary: A stunning collection of singles and a movement towards claiming the "fight/power/math/whatever" pop throne.
I'll admit that The Darien Venture had me hook, line, and sinker from the first time I heard "Bones," the opening track to A Kite, A Key and A Storm
. The track has everything I like on the lighter side of music: shimmering technicality that knows when to light up and when to stand back, catchy leads and powerful rhythms, and vocals that never strain or stress, but still provide a powerful leading force, backed by harmonies and the sort of group chants you'd raise your fist and yell along with at a concert. From the dramatic rhythm that heralds its entrance and the bright merry-go-round pop lead that follows to the staggered and stampeded phrasing of quirky lyrics ("Give me health, give me strength and I'll steal the rest") and drawn out, almost post-rock outro, the track is laid out with thoughtful architecture and executed with power and passion. That precision, power, and passion just makes everything so grand and memorable that you probably won't be able to forget the tune, let alone doubt its quality. And, if you're like me, you'll be playing it on repeat for quite some time - at least until you hear the next track.
But while it's easy to praise "Bones" and many (read: all) of its tracks, the truth about A Kite, A Key and A Storm
is a tricky one. Honestly, just about every track on this album is excellent and possesses the same traits as "Bones." They're all executed differently, mind, with tracks like "1.21 Gigawatts" kicking things off with a powerful chorus and a maintained slow flow throughout the track as opposed to "Thinks/Thoks'" Centipede Hz
inspired intro, but they all have the same elements of memorable, muscular pop and dynamic, shifting rock. But the tracks don't usually flow well from one song to another, causing little cracks in the otherwise solid material that this album is made of. Each song is memorable on its own, and while you'll probably wind up remembering names, placing them at any particular spot on the album may be a chore.
If the album had a flow nearly as strong as any of its tracks, A Kite, A Key and A Storm
would, undoubtedly, be the album of the year. To an extent, the lack of flow can be forgiven with the tacking-on of the EP label, but with seven songs and a nearly thirty minute run time, it's hard to give up that much slack. As it stands, the album's more a collection of new and reworked singles that could all be number one hits on the radio. If the radio chose to acknowledge the existence of thinking-man's power pop, that is.
It should also be noted that while the first two tracks of the album ("Bones" and "Ho! Criminal Face") derive a lot of influence from fellow power pop Scots Dananananaykroyd, as did the group's previous outing, Indications
, A Kite, A Key and A Storm
puts more emphasis on experimentation and the softer arm of their sound. While The Darien Venture still carry out a muscular, intelligent pop sound that had the trail blazed for it by the group named after your favorite conehead, this album shows them taking more ownership of that sound. Rather than simply following the beaten path, the group have picked up the tools left behind by their forerunners and started carving out a path of their own on this album.
A Kite, A Key and A Storm
is a powerful third EP for The Darien Venture. With crystal clear production to back up the trifecta of power, intelligence, and emotion found on every song, it's hard to imagine these Scots flying under the radio radar for much longer. And even if they do, they put on such a sound performance on this album that they should be a big blip on your radar. If nothing else, you can impress all of the ladies by telling them you knew who they were before they made it big.