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The Darcys

Aaron Miller

The Darcys At The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, on Friday

There is the calm, there is the storm, and then there are the Darcys, young art-rock wonders who do both simultaneously. Their results are meaningful, momentous and absolutely enviable.

In the beery dark showroom at the Horseshoe Tavern, in front of a bustling co-ed crowd, the Toronto quartet set impassioned melodic emotion against funnelling washes of electric feedback and gauzy textures. Crescendos figured; the drummer and bassist clearly had eaten their Wheaties or spinach.

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As the band members set up their equipment, they did so to the relatively breezy sounds of Steely Dan, a progressive group of music-obsessives who the Darcys admire (perhaps for their persnicketiness), but do not emulate. Rather, it is Radiohead, one has to think, who the Darcys send fan letters to. Something like Don't Bleed Me, which begins with a tumbling beat, white noise and a simple sinister keyboard riff, features high singing synonymous to the arcing vocals of Thom Yorke.

In another similarity to Yorke's band, the Darcys' latest album (self-titled) is free for the download – the only copies at the merchandise table were vinyl, not compact disc.

There's a colourful story – colourful to me; tormented to the band – to the making of the album. The plot involves stolen equipment, a knifepoint stick-up, a van accident on an icy road, and the abrupt exit of their former lead singer. Vocals tracks were re-recorded, lawsuits were filed and the album was re-mixed not once but twice.

The group's debut album was 2007's Endless Water, but that's just what the Wikipedia discography will tell you. For all intents and purposes, the gorgeous new eponymous release is the Darcys' beginning. It's the first instalment of a three-record deal with Toronto's Arts & Crafts label, and the songs played at the Horseshoe were drawn exclusively from that new album.

Can't say that the Darcys miss their former vocalist, no offence to that chap. Guitarist-keyboardist Jason Couse has a lovely, lush soar to him. Whether it was the sound system, his concentration of conveying emotion at the expense of enunciating, or my own mushy eardrums, his elegantly chosen words were hard to make out. A shame.

"Everyone has got all the time but me," Couse sang on the shimmering I Will be Light. And it's true that the Darcys have time to make up. Apparently both of their next two albums are already recorded, with the talk being that the new material is different than the sounds just out. Those sounds are grand, moody and uplifting – who knows what happier days will bring.

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