Darlings was recorded and produced in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurdsson, who has previously worked with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Damon Albarn and Sigur Rós. It sounds gorgeous. Swelling brass arrangements reminiscent of Efterklang; crisp, bright guitar lines (particularly on standout track 'High Fever') and glittering piano flourishes all contribute to a feeling of warmth, of safety. I can't remember the last time I heard a record so comforting. Opening track 'Tunnel' segues into 'Walls' and nicely showcases two sides of the band: the gentle build and lithe chorus of the former, the busy drums and insistence of the latter.
Influences are easy to spot, but just as easily transcended. The National, Frightened Rabbit and The Remote Part-era Idlewild all seem to be key inspirations, but crucially The Bronze Medal don't rest too heavily on them; Darlings is sonically quite busy, restless, always looking for the next ear-pleasing detail. The showpiece track 'Darlings', at six-and-a-half minutes, could be a slog, but such is the band's skill at arrangement that it never treads water, patiently introducing and removing layers before a cymbal-crashing release.
For a band who have been criticised in the past for being a trifle too patient in their approach, Darlings delivers payoff after payoff without sacrificing the tension and build of their earlier releases. Occasionally it can feel a little too mannered, but that is a minor quibble. This is the sound of a band brimming with confidence and now entirely at ease with their sound. They have lived in it for a long time, and they believe in it. You should too.
The Bronze Medal in Deutschland, aber nicht in unserem Wohnzimmer:
15.02.16 Köln, Studio 672
16.02.16 Hamburg, Kleiner Donner
17.02.16 Berlin, Berghaim Kantine
18.02.16 Frankfurt, Ponyhof
06.04.16 Nürnberg, Muz
07.04.16 Dresden, Ostpol
08.04.16 Leipzig, Nato