30 (feat. Laura Groves)
Darkstar’s second album, 2013’s News From Nowhere, marked a shift from brooding bass music to feathery electronic pop, but on 2015’s Foam Island, the UK duo made an even bigger conceptual leap, lacing hazy synths and vocals with snippets of young people sharing their hopes and fears. Five years later, Civic Jams speaks more obliquely to the changes that the UK has undergone since then. It’s not an explicitly political album; their vocals, which often bear an echo-soaked resemblance to Arthur Russell, can be difficult to tease out of the murk, but the omnipresent air of exhaustion and melancholy is unmistakable. Darkstar’s Aiden Whalley and James Young have described Civic Jams as a response to Brexit, and you can hear the sense of generational unease in the weary nostalgia of a song like “30,” a downcast reverie about long-ago dance floors, or “Text,” in which church organs and bicycle bells underpin the doleful refrain, “Just like a TV show.” In moments like this, the principal themes of the album become clear. It’s about finding community when the world around seems to be dissolving; it’s about finding a solid foothold in a kaleidoscope of screens flashing competing opinions. The sense of anxiety is real, but the closing “Blurred,” with its soft, wordless choir, offers solace in the form of a requiem for all that has been lost.