Words by Leah B.
Those Darlins is a musical trio comprised of Jessi Darlin (guitar), Kelley Darlin (electric bass), and Nikki Darlin (baritone ukulele). They hail from the small Tennessee town of Murfreesboro but record in New York City with Jeff Curtin (known for helping Vampire Weekend break out).
Engineer by Ed Rawls (Black Lips), Screws Get Loose [Oh Wow Dang - 2011] is the title of their sophomore release. Listeners can expect an assembly of rough-and-tumble, rollicking country-punkified garage rock. The album’s premise, according to The Darlins themselves, is said to show that "life on the road is no place for the faint of heart".
I am drawn to the honesty found in the music of Those Darlins. In a world of euphemisms, metaphors and innuendos, it's refreshing to hear an album with tongue-in-cheek songs like "Be Your Bro", a song about the struggles of men and women trying to be only friends and nothing more.
A "trademark" trait of Those Darlins is the (often) gritty nature of their music and lyrics. Most of their music discusses living near, at, or below the poverty line. All three Darlin's have first-hand experience with the hardships associated with poverty, which adds a layer of realism to their music and to this album.
The first six tracks of Screws is the perfect mix of rock and roll, southern style. Filled with unique beats and catchy lyrics, it would be surprising to find anyone not toe-tapping by the end of "Tina Said." The first half of the album showcases each member's strengths; the listener can easily hear how Those Darlins have grown artistically. The tracks are focused and cohesive.
But where the first half succeeds, the second half of the album falls flat. While "Waste Away" is the perfect slowdown track from the first portion of the album, "Fatty Needs a Fix" seems forced and juvenile. Several of the songs that appear later on the album have the same musical wit or entertaining quality as earlier tracks. "BUMD" starts off strong, with heavy drum beats and exciting vocals, but ends abruptly.
Since their formation in 2006, Those Darlins have graced stages at Bonnaroo and SxSW. They have played alongside musical acts such as Boss Hog, Ida Maria, O'Death, Deer Tick and Heartless Bastards. The band took shape when Jessi and Kelley met at Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp. The camp, formed by Kelley, encourages girls (and young women) to express themselves artistically through music. Jessi was one of the first to enroll in the program and instantly connected with Kelley. They decided to become musical partners and later added Nikki (originally from Virginia) to their group. This new LP showcases the talents of group newcomer Linwood Regensburg (also known as "Sheriff Lin" on stage). He is both a singer and a drummer. Regensburg lends his vocal talent on several tracks ("Let U Down") adding another layer of depth to their second release. This release is the first time male vocals mix with the Darlins and the octave change is surprising, fun and intriguing.
All in all, Those Darlins stay true to their southern roots with their sophomore release and continue to entertain us with witty lyrics and exciting musical arrangements. I enjoyed blasting "Tina Said" and "Be Your Bro" through my Klipsch home theater systems on repeat. I am not disappointed with the second album and look forward to listening to their next release.