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Interesting melodies with counterpoint from smoky background vocals coalesce with beautifully played and recorded instruments to build a blurry late-night Paris or Lower East Side mood – with an undercurrent of anger.

Music Review: Des Ark – ‘Everything Dies’

Des Ark Everything DiesThere are just nine songs on Everything Dies, the compact third album from Des Ark. But the artful complexities of their composition and arrangement make it feel like more. And I mean that in the best possible way.

For Everything Dies, Des Ark, the nom de plume of North Carolina singer-songwriter Aimée Argote, worked with a variety of collaborators and musicians with credits ranging from Bright Eyes to Wilco to The Appleseed Cast. Indeed the gentler tunes sometimes display a sensibility akin to the folky knowingness of ’90s artists like Bright Eyes.

On the other hand, the harder songs have a steely muscle that brings to mind Alison Moyet. And throughout, the reverb-heavy production, the lushly composed washes of sound from strings, keyboards, and drums, and Argote’s soupy vocal delivery often make the lyrics hard to understand. After several listens, the rocker “Ties” (see stream below) is easily one of my favorite tracks – yet I could decipher almost none of the words.

That said, in the softer songs where the lyrics are easier to hear they are as evocative and specific as the music, even as they deal with common themes – love, loss, conflict, the human condition. There’s bitterness, as when the narrator of “Coney Island Street Meat” declares:

you’ll have this car that won’t turn over, throw the engine on the rack
it looks fine from the highway, but when you get down on yr knees
there’s a story there of rusty busted belly underneath

Yet there’s sweet sadness too: “why can’t i believe until you believe in me,” Argote repeats plaintively in the gently swinging interlude at the center of “French Fries Are Magical,” with a melody of nursery-rhyme simplicity that reminds me of Kim Richey.

This is one album where hard-to-make-out lyrics don’t bother me and even add a mysterious element. Interesting melodies with counterpoint from smoky background vocals coalesce with beautifully played and recorded instruments to build a blurry late-night Paris or Lower East Side mood – with an undercurrent of anger. The very song titles suggest a seedy city vibe, or at least a fantastical version thereof: “Street Woods,” “Don Taco & His Hot Sauce Toss,” “French Fries Are Magical” – but also the ambiguous “Coney Island Street Meat” and the nervy “Peace to You Too Motherf*cker.”

Adding interest and intrigue are unexpected sounds and instruments: what sounds like a banjo in “Don Taco”; enigmatically moving choral shimmers in “Street Woods”; heavily processed piano in “Your Pregnant Motherf*cker”; a moaning clarinet in the wispy closer “Nitetime Moths.”

And it all adds up to a fascinating ride. Everything Dies will be released October 6, and is now available for pre-order at this link or the link below.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases.Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires.Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.