Darwin Deez: Double Down

It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but when all you've ever done is pop gems, why change?

- Brooklyn’s Darwin Deez has taken his time getting to the release of his third record, Double Down. But thankfully the end product has been worth the wait. The album builds upon his signature 4-string electric guitar and drum machine formula with some catchy bass lines and new beats. Frontman and writer Darwin Smith recorded, mixed and mastered the entirety of the album by himself – a DIY effort that is not to be smirked at. As always Smith isn’t one to take himself too seriously, with most of the record featuring those whimsical yet sharply funny insights into the relationships around him. As with previous releases, he’s big on metaphors, to the extent that at times this method feels a little bit like a crutch. Luckily he’s smart and witty enough to mostly get away with this repetition. Double Down is a fun record, with experimentation and just enough weird quirkiness to keep things interesting.

Opener Last Cigarette is very much one of those aforementioned metaphorical narratives, where Deez compares a former partner to being addicted to smoking. The dreamy indie-pop melody perfectly compliments lyrics such as “One last cigarette before I quit / One last look at it, because we’re good at it.” Conversely Lover is more literal when it comes to relationship musings and also it’s a little bit harsher, with biting lyrics such as “You only care about your hair…Stop acting so vain.” Throughout previous albums, Deez has always focused on the interpersonal relationships in his life, from friendships to romance. It’s a great storytelling mechanism, though it must be a little awkward for the people actually in some of these songs!

Time Machine is one of the standouts on the album, the guitar melody is a catchy yet simple progression, encapsulating all of the weirdness and fun of Deez, while staying true to his lo-fi and minimalist mantra. It’s not all about the fresh-faced and innocent pop however, with songs like Rated R and Bag of Tricks going down a slightly darker path. The former still has that core of whimsy, as it explores the tale of a fifteen-year-old sneaking into an R rated film, but the latter feels a little more sinister, with references to ‘ready-made bags with price tags’ appearing as a thinly veiled metaphor for bad life choices. Kill Your Attitude is another strong and irresistible pop track. The guitar riffs are complimented by hand claps and spontaneous backing vocals – just as any indie-pop weirdness should be.

Double Down isn’t exactly anything new. On face value it’s a handful of pop songs with some pretty weird lyrics that only hint at the inner-workings of an oddball character with a penchant for melodic guitar riffs and the occasional falsetto. The important thing , however, is that it just works and although it’s hard to see through some of the cheesey-ness and awkward moments at first, there’s no escaping some of the pop gems that have emerged from this long awaited record. Darwin Deez are known for being a crazy live act, with plenty of energy and quirky routines and -if nothing else- Double Down will provide their set with plenty more pop tracks for audiences to sing along to. That's more than enough for me.

- Clare Armstrong.

Album Details

Album Title: Double Down
Artist: Darwin Deez
Record Label: (Lucky Number / Inertia)