Darker Lights is the third release from Papermaps, but in a way it could almost be considered their debut album as a new group. Following their first two releases – 2011’s eponymous debut album and 2012’s mini-album Inferior Ghost – the Toronto-based quintet found themselves suddenly down to three. The remaining members carried on, recruiting a new guitarist and synth player, cementing the group as a foursome and shedding their previous power-pop style for a new, more ambient and opaque sound.
Darker Lights kicks off with the unhurried “Shadow Theatre,” with the entrancing repetition of the line, “Most of the feeling’s gone,” in its chorus. Though the following songs speed up considerably in terms of tempo and energy, the themes stay the same: regret, feeling lost, hopelessness. And these emotions don’t just emerge through the lyrics; the guitars, drums and synth all have a certain darkness and depth to them that complement the lyrics.
Though it starts strong, the songs on Darker Lights soon feel a bit dated, like something you might have heard in the background at a party a few years ago. There is something promising here, but unfortunately it is not quite current enough, not quite exciting enough, and, ultimately and simply, not quite enough.
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor