An angst-ridden cry of an electric guitar is ready to come swinging out of the silence in “Shatter the Glass.” Graceful grooves make love with a vibrant lead vocal and the boldly stylish bass that shadows its every word in “The Funeral.” “Going Away” sparkles like distant car headlights on a dark highway, where only the stars in the night sky could rival their spellbinding surrealism. “Borrowed Light” boasts an R&B-flavored rhythm that supports a rollicking pop percussion startlingly well, even under pressure. The harmonious but haunting “Misshapen Shadows” enjoys one of the more fluid song structures of any that I’ve reviewed in 2019, and while I had heard – and enjoyed – “Even If We Don’t Know” prior to hearing the whole of its parent album, I had no idea that its heavenly textures and uncaged vibrato would serve as only a taste of what the five aforementioned songs that it’s joined by in Darkness in the Garden contain in droves. In this latest release from the critically acclaimed Mariela, the Nashville-stationed indie rockers push the sonic envelope as far as they can, and end up producing one of the finest extended plays to debut this summer.
This master mix is incredibly streamlined, to such an extent where one song runs into the next rather seamlessly here. The first half of Darkness in the Garden is admittedly more radio-ready than the second is, but the super-tight sound of “Shatter the Glass,” “Going Away” and “Even If We Don’t Know” create a lot of exciting tension that will ultimately see a cathartic release in “Misshapen Shadows,” “Borrowed Light,” and finally, “The Funeral.” It’s not a concept record per-say, but there’s an underlying narrative to all six of these tracks that undeniably adds to the progressive feel of the music. Introspective statements, self-aware examinations, contemplative confessions that test our capacity for both understanding and affection; the essence of youth and the struggle to break free from adolescent inhibitions is a constant theme in Darkness in the Garden, and yet there’s a sense of reflection in the prose of the lyrics that makes this EP accessible to indie fans both young and old alike
Effervescent, chic and unfanciful in tone, Mariela’s Darkness in the Garden is good clean indie pop that was conceived for serious audiophiles just as much as it was for the casual listeners interested in new music with an eclectic, but not quite avant-garde, style. I’ve been listening to a lot of bands that are basically trying to make this EP for themselves; from the postmodern elements to the embracive, somewhat old school tonality of the instruments, Mariela have a made a record that encapsulates the sound of an increasingly surreal alternative rock genre whilst staying away from the complacent compositional style that so many of their peers have been employing. This is their most polished material so far, and if it catches the ear of enough independent and college radio stations this summer, mainstream success should be right around the corner for this talented group of players.