Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
If you smartly exchanged your email address for a free EP from Hamilton’s Dark Mean when we prompted you almost a year ago, then you’ve probably been made aware of the release of their second EP, Music Box. It’s another free download for contact-info tradesies, and much like Frankencottage, it’s a small taste of the band’s eclectic indie influences filtered through indirect but decidedly determined songwriting, with arrangements whose scattered pieces always stick.
The most ambitious thing about Dark Mean isn’t that they make it a point to put everything they want into a more-or-less conventional structure, but that they actually find a way to make it fit; in “Piano & Beat,” Schroeder-like piano and orch-pop horns meld into and drift out of a harmless programmed beat and then into the time-tested group-chant that warmed your old emo–loving heart last time around, while the success of the hushed folk ambience of “Acoustic” comes as much from the remarkable ease with which they can strip down as it does the collaborative sound and identity that is maintained. When the final few chords soar over sharp, ascending strings at the end of “Music Box” (streaming above), the happy head-bob campfire pace does a heelspin into a tightly wound, what-the-fuck Anathallo-like uprising that both startles and satisfies.
Though so surely steadied, there’s a slightly coarse demo quality to these songs that conveys the right dose of scrap and elicits just a bit more curiosity. Music Box can be downloaded from the band’s site, and both it and Frankencottage will be used as part of Dark Mean’s debut full-length later this year.