Homemade Knives - No One Doubts The Darkness Review
by Patrick Muldowney
No matter how objective one likes to convince himself he is, there are always situations to test one's mettle. This became an internal struggle for me as I acquainted myself with Homemade Knives and No One Doubts the Darkness, their new album. Wil Loyal just happens to have a similar voice to a terrible band from my past called The Screamin' Jimmies, which resulted in adverse twitches from my subconscious. Thankfully, my rational self made me listen until those old taste buds waned, and I was no longer blind to the quality of this disc.
Considering how foggy my previous reference to Wil Loyal's voice was, let's put that into focus first. Loyal has a southern twang that tends to draw out syllables like many of the acoustic, roots-friendly singers who were influenced by grunge. Think of all the people who listened to newer Alice In Chains, then progressed toward bands like Train and Sister Hazel. That's the continuum on which you will find Wil Loyal. Conclusion: Loyal has a good voice, but more important is that lyrically and musically Homemade Knives offers more than the most recent successes referenced.
The best minute of the album is not even listed as a song, yet, in its untitled state, the one-minute introduction of piano, xylophone, and acoustic guitar sets the perfect mood. Homemade Knives is not about dynamics and tempo shifts. No One Doubts the Darkness is for the sweet, the thoughtful, and the ones who appreciate uncovering beauty. It is not a product for hedonists seeking immediate gratification. As the instrumental shifts seamlessly into "The Ocean Drinks the Sun", it is easy to appreciate the deep pool of sounds featured in the music. From the seldom used xylophone on the first track, Homemade Knives poignantly includes violin and mandolin on "The Ocean…" Deviating from the standard fare instrumentally is common practice on this album, but this is consistently done in a fluid, comforting manner. Somehow the four-piece located nine tasteful musicians to complement them well in the studio.
The songs on No One Doubts… generally revolve around relationships of the romantic notion, which seem to be the oldest subject in the book, yet the natural imagery and similes Loyal narrates are creatively constructed. "Anyone At All", an optimistic love ballad, tells Caroline to "lay down lazily for awhile. And cut that silly string tied through your spine. You're too easily pulled away." As Loyal's voice blends faultlessly with the female backing vocals, it becomes clear that Caroline has a little problem with infidelity, and he is counting on her word. Not quite the theme song for our patriarchal society.
No southern fried approach would be complete without sliding on some steel guitar, and popping in some banjo. That is why "Saltwater Shoes" is the best song on the disc. This is the song that made me want this review. The rhythm section becomes more pronounced. Wil Loyal's voice immediately works, regardless of previous biases. The song has a pressing need to be heard, with a hope for survival regardless of previous situations. "Saltwater Shoes" is the song you will use to introduce Homemade Knives to others, because it is a portal to their identity.
No One Doubts the Darkness is a damn good album. In arranging the tracks, the band members did a nice job of book-ending their selections so that listeners embrace the beginning and the end. The best story would also have a middle. This is where Homemade Knives, while maintaining an adequate quality, becomes a bit unseasoned. "Tiny Anchor" and "Hold On" are minor speed bumps for an otherwise ecstatic review, and certainly no reason not to like No One Doubts the Darkness in all its glory.
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