It’s always exciting to hear that a band you really like has a new album out. Maybe you follow them religiously and have been counting down the days til the album release, listening to teasers over and over again, or maybe you LIKE the band, maybe not enough to follow their antics online, and then one day someone tells you their new album is out and you rush home to buy it on itunes. Whichever of these happens to correspond to you is totally acceptable. I don’t live and breathe Murder by Death. I own their albums, and have listened to a few of those over and over again. I have really fond summer memories of going bone hunting in the woods with Good Morning, Magpie cranked. I associate the smell of rotting forests and old bones with songs about the devil and about whiskey. Adam Turla’s voice really has this intense gothic country bent to it, and even with older albums of Murder by Death, his story telling is played to with that voice.
As excited as I was to find out Murder by Death had a new album out, that excitement was dampened when I actually listened to it. Big Dark Love is very different sound wise and lyric wise from their previous albums. Despite being called Big Dark Love, the listener is pressed to find much darkness in the album, and often the lyrics are so wishy washy that one wonders if the same person who wrote songs like, “The Day” or “Fuego!” wrote this album. This album fell flat for me. The music that once sounded so interesting and different now sounds a lot like The National, or even the XX at points and even the National hasn’t sacrificed that depressing word play that makes them perfectly the National.
“Dream in Red” is really the only song that echoes the familiar Murder by Death ballad sound, with some spooky lyrics like, “..what I saw, left me cold”. I realize that bands aren’t going to constantly remake their albums and tell the same stories over and again, and I get experimentation musically, but this kind of lost me. Even the cello that has come to define the sound of Murder by Death is now background rather than a highlight and the music really suffers.
I’m not sure why such a unique band would trade in what makes them unique in order to have the end result be just another boring indie rock album. It’s sad, really. A unique, and I mean truly unique sound is so very hard to come by these days, so I’m not sure what the point is of trading it away for a C+ album that sounds phoned in at best.
A quote from one of the few non horror movies that has stuck with me, “Well you see, he is doing something very hard, trying to sing in someone’s else voice using his own vocal cords” – Art School Confidential.
Unfortunately this won’t be an album played on future hikes into the forest to collect bones, drink gin and wear dirty old black cowboy boots. Sorry Murder by Death. Y U Do Dis?
-You can find Robin drinking gin and collecting bones on Twitter