Darcy is one of the most interesting voices in indie rock today.
Ought quietly became one of the most interesting and refreshing bands of the 2010s by crafting a cerebral, intricate take on post-punk that successfully acknowledged its forbears without resorting to outright imitation. Their first two albums are uniformly excellent, but they also present a bit of a daunting task for vocalist Tim Darcy, whose debut solo album, Saturday Night, aims to break out from the shadow of his band. In this sense, he’s largely successful; while it shares some of Ought’s inventiveness, Saturday Night is a very different proposition from its predecessors. Here, Darcy takes a more relaxed approach to songwriting and performance, an approach that prizes emotion and spontaneity over technique.
A large portion of Darcy’s allure as a musician comes from his voice. There’s something very warm and classic about it. Like the rest of his music, it evokes the spirit of great singers from the past without being an obvious affectation or gimmick. His singing on “You Felt Comfort” recalls Lou Reed with a hint of country-rock twang, while “Still Waking Up” gives shades of Roy Orbison at his lowest register. The latter, paired with what is likely the most delicate arrangement on the album, works especially well, giving hints of a different path Darcy could go down in the future. Those hints are what Saturday Night largely consists of; it offers a mish-mash of styles and ideas that could form whole albums on their own. Sadly, Darcy only provides us with samples. For all of its merits, Saturday Night never feels quite as finished as it could be.
That isn’t to say that the album is underwhelming, however. Despite Darcy describing the project as an off-the-cuff lark with friends–the album’s title is when the recording sessions would take place–he put more effort than most indie rock bandleaders typically put into their solo albums. For example, the album’s first few offerings contain obvious nods to garage rock, a far cry from the music Darcy typically makes. (Take note, Martin Courtney.) It then falls into a more conventional pattern, favoring songcraft over texture and atmosphere in a very traditional way…for half of the album, at least. On the second half, the songs become more fragmented. Darcy’s vocals are more expressive, as if he’s letting out years of pent-up emotion in quick bursts. As it comes to a close, Saturday Night almost disintegrates, fading into nothingness as “Joan, Pt. 3” ebbs to its end.
Arguably, Saturday Night offers little in terms of the new musical ground it covers. There are some new variations of well-worn ideas discovered, but Darcy definitely works with the familiar here. However, Saturday Night is remarkable for just how vibrant it is. It wouldn’t have been surprising if this had turned out to be as slight as its creation suggested; hankfully, Tim Darcy doesn’t do anything by halves. While not quite up to the level of which he’s capable, Saturday Night features all of the qualities that make Darcy one of the most interesting voices in indie rock today.