This song has been out for a minute now, but London group caroline just dropped their debut LP via Rough Trade this past Friday and its opener, “Dark Blue” is a tone-setter for an album I foresee myself spending a LOT of time with this year.
The easy comparisons to make between them and their contemporaries Black Country, New Road (they’re from the UK, they make experimental “post-punk”, contains strings, longer songs, etc), ignores the fact that they’re pretty different groups. Where BCNR usually flirts with the outer boundaries of minimalism and maximalism, caroline delights in taking things deliberately slow, letting each note breathe and create space in the song’s atmosphere. Not only that, but caroline engages with a pool of sounds and timbres that’s criminally overlooked in our landscape today, that being Appalachian folk. I’ve heard similar dips into this rusty melancholy on records from Daniel Bachman and Steve Gunn’s collaboration with the Black Twig Pickers, but I don’t think I’ve heard it in the way that it’s being presented on their LP.
Like I mentioned, “Dark blue” is a great opener because it sets the scene for the album: you’re gonna get steady, locked-in grooves, himming-and-hawing violin soloing with great discordant tones, and threads of Midwest emo influence stitching up the seams to make everything stick together. It’s an adventure of dynamics and simmering anxiety. Notice that at the beginning of the track the two violin players are playing in broad, full-bowed strokes, and by the end they’re fully staccato, trembling with the tinny cymbals and guitar harmonics. All this happening while the same drum and guitar riffs that the song started with march on.
It’s a metallic, crunchy album that still has a lot of human heart in it. It’s a chainsaw ripping through a forest: wood splintering and thundering down onto tough soil. I should also mention I covered another one of their songs last year, “Everything for everyone”, that didn’t make the full LP. It’s great though. I can’t wait to see the group live this October here in NYC – tickets are on sale and as of writing they’re not sold out. It’s at LPR too. Hell yeah.
You can check out “Dark blue” and buy caroline’s self-titled debut album HERE.