Portland-based trio Lovers have the stripped-down indie electronica sound perfected. Their new album Dark Light (Badman Records) opens with "Every time the music starts / I can feel my aching, shaking heart." That sentiment follows the album throughout, and passionate themes of love, complex relationships and heartfelt pain can be heard in every track of the 10-song LP.
Some electronica purists revel in a lack of emotion, but Lovers' singer Carolyn Berk brings emotion to electronica in ways we haven't heard since The Postal Service. Her sultry voice combines beautifully with bandmate Kerby Ferris' icy and dark synth lines and percussionist Emily Kingan's rhythms, leaving a pleasant pop aftertaste. It's a combination that allows the album to be in the car for weeks without realizing how many times it has played and is what gives Dark Light the electronica feel without the electronica fluff: stripped-down, bare-bones synth filled with beautiful harmonies.
Dark Light works well as background sound because it is certainly not a think piece. The lyrics are simple, easy to understand and repetitive. The album isn't intellectually taxing but does what music should do: It keeps a listener listening if not necessarily engaged. It's a mood setter that you won't want to turn off but that doesn't demand attention. That, and the way that songs flow into each other seamlessly makes Dark Light, in spite of its name, perfect for a summer playlist. The pop-synth-driven melodies fit with rising temperatures and extended evenings and would be a great soundtrack for lying under the stars or chilling out on the couch with a book.
Tracks like "Don't You Want It" are quintessential songs about sadness. The beats, tone and a cynical sound from Berk put the song on par with the mopiest of musings as she sings: "The house is quiet since you left. / And all the corners are unswept. / I make alliances with the appliances, I try to get them to talk to me."
"Peppermint" sounds like a level from the Sonic The Hedgehog game. It's dark, almost trancey as the sound bounces between left and right channels, pulsing until Berk's vocals come in: "We're going to be waiting for a long time / but it'll be worth it when we find what we find."
The band returns to the Pacific Northwest after their countrywide tour, and you can see them in Seattle on Saturday, July 23, or Portland on Sunday, Aug. 14.