So much of our daily music choices are dictated by our mood. That can be driven by our current life circumstances, our activity, or the weather. Even as a reviewer, I must be mindful of any of these unconscious biases filtering through.
With this understanding, Dark Roast‘s 14-track second album feels playable irrespective of time, feeling or climate. The album is a presentation of soul, retro in style and passionately communicated.
Dark Roast chose the right name for the deliciousness they are cooking.
Dark Roast has revisited the past and extracted the parts that made music such a rich and fascinating listen. Working as a group to write and record can be difficult, but the effort pays off. Comprised of six young males’, their lyrics on love are written in the old-fashioned way of ‘opening up’ – pleading, wanting or lost. And, in their complex world of passion, dating apps don’t exist. Everything about Going Back, Moving Up by Dark Roast works from the band’s fashion and cover design to the most crucial part – musical execution.
The smooth and catchy Running Away sparkles with a fiery guitar while the drummers’ licks and dazzling horn section on Stuff I need to Say uplift this sassy and commanding track. The bass lines throughout are tighter than a ’70’s t-shirt! And all tracks deliver a funky togetherness, such as Watcha Gonna Do Now.
James Brown would be proud.
Interspersed between are instrumental cuts (Getting Ready for The Trip, Eva, Space Talk, Dark Roast Theme and Northern Disco Lights) bridging between engrossing vocal-led songs. And these bridges are not to be crossed in a hurry. Instead, the view they expose is the bands’ core of exemplary improvisational musicianship and love for all things jazzy and funky. Their jazz education has paid off like a Las Vegas fruit machine with three matching cherries.
The synergy of Dark Roast reverbs through their joint musicianship, voices, and lyrics making every track such as Wait for You such a pleasure.
Dark Shades Hiding Sharp Eyes elevates feel-good vibes with a gorgeous ’70s string break. Wonderfully catchy, only the fastest foot shufflers should attend this dance-floor party! What Time Do We Leave delivers a classy mid-tempo soul single. At the same time, the endlessly playable Let Go is an irresistible sweet horned summer jazz fusion.
Though centre stage, the excellent vocals of Johan Helland work harmoniously with the band, the achievement means the sound is delivered as one voice – one soul band.
The beautiful ballad Brother is black music affectionately told through the soft rhythms of a Nordic soul band. May I remind you all songs on this album are originals, especially when hearing a track of such high lyrical and vocal calibre. And despite Keep on Going being the final album track, it doesn’t recline in delivering a memorable experience.
The album ticks so many essential boxes:
- Funk that grooves
- Soul music with heart
- Instrumentals with flair
- Ballads to ignite emotion
- Original and strong songwriting
- Scandinavian (ok, this is just our box)
Bizarrely and frustratingly, music such as this is no longer destined for commercial charts. Admittedly, this band may be perfectly reviving the past, but no one complains when Bruno Mars does it. People need to make better music choices and help make underground bands like Dark Roast mainstream again.
Going Back, Moving Up - Dark Roast
A straight 5 with no chaser from me. This is 100% soulfulness. Just needs a vinyl pressing!