Bursting out of the bittersweet silence that signals the conclusion of “Borrowed Light,” “The Funeral” rides a wave of sonic textures taller than a city skyline and brings listeners to the forefront of an emotive melodic jam that only a band like Mariela could deliver. This is how they wrap-up their latest EP, Darkness in the Garden, and it couldn’t be a much more poignant end to the stunner of a six-song record. If you’ve been following the Nashville underground lately, then you’re likely to have already caught up with some of the buzz around this hot new record and the hard working sonic stewards responsible for its creation.
Darkness in the Garden is a very experimental outing for this band, but it isn’t entirely steeped in avant-garde thinking. Some of the songs here – such as “Shatter the Glass” and hit single “Even If We Don’t Know” – are pretty straightforward in style, but sport anxious grooves that are anything but the norm for American pop music right now. Mariela keep it pretty light with their lyrical subject matter here, save for “The Funeral,” while retaining a defiant sound in their oversized hooks and rip-roar rhythms, both of which are abundantly scattered throughout the EP.
“Borrowed Light” and “Going Away” have tons of understated urgency, and borrow from the remaining tension left over in the wake of the record-opening “Shatter the Glass” liberally. Though no two tracks here are the same, everything on Darkness in the Garden has a jarring spunk to it, both rock songs and paced-out ballads included. Things never get repetitive, but I think it’s obvious that Mariela have found their signature sound in this disc. They’ve designed a terrific blend of punk, pop and borderline-psychedelic rock in these songs, and they sound a lot more relaxed in their execution than they ever did before.
The middle portion of Darkness in the Garden – “Even If We Don’t Know” and “Misshapen Shadows” – is where we really get to experience Mariela at their most unrestrained. The conservative song structures, tempered grooves, all of it comes undone in these two tracks, and to be truthful I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more songs on the record like them. Don’t get me wrong; I like “Shatter the Glass,” “Going Away,” “Borrowed Light” and “The Funeral,” but there’s something about these two eclectic numbers that makes me want to see this band on stage sooner than later. These songs were built to be extended into jams, and I for one would love to see what Mariela could do with them live and in-person.
This EP is a really fun summer record and a step in the right direction for Mariela creatively, and though it’s still a little early in the season, my gut tells me that it’s going to be a release that we’re still talking about come that first gust of autumn. If you haven’t already, make a point to give it a listen before June is over – those who live for poetic pop at its finest will not be disappointed.