When a singer of a beloved band strikes it out on his own, itʼs likely to strike fear into the hearts of fans. The magic in some bands comes from the summation of multiple creative forces under one roof. As such solo albums often turn into exceedingly self-indulgent affairs, due to the loss of the checks and balances that other musical minds bring. Thatʼs not to say that Tim Presleyʼs other project Darker My Love is some legendary band thatʼs cranking out masterpieces. Frankly, they arenʼt, but I believe that to some degree that may play into the successes of this album. Without the expectations that come along with wild success, Presley was left to make the album that he wanted to make.
Aside from an exceedingly pretentious acknowledgements section in the liner notes (and thatʼs really only apparent if youʼve purchased the LP) this album is entirely free of the sort of excess mentioned above. What we have here is a collection of 60s inspired pop songs that never exceed more than 3 and a half minutes in length. Itʼs Darker My Love but sent back a decade, volume turned down, and played on some old warped cassette that you found in your weird uncle’s basement. Each song is coated in the same sort of fuzz, but opener “And By Always” utilizes it best. The guitars become syrupy, the vocals become exceedingly hazy, and the entire song floats where a weaker one might have been bogged down.
The only complaint that one could level at this album (though it can be issued at multiple levels) is one of incoherence. For the most part, Presleyʼs lyrics are indecipherable, which isnʼt much of a problem if youʼre listening to a shoegaze album, but on one so catchy, itʼd be nice to be able to have a sing along yʼknow? The album as a whole also suffers a sort of incoherence, though each song taken on its own is pretty great, it struggles to find some sort of thread of continuity. Though “Stranger Things Have Happened” and “Body Cold” are both good songs in their own right, itʼs a bit jarring to hear a rollicking near country number with a toy piano solo flow into the song closest to Darker My Loveʼs brand of bluesy shoegaze on the whole record. Thatʼs not even taking into account the Madlib-cribbing “Mexican Twins/Life Is…Too $hort” that follows after. Though it definitely shows a different side to Presley (who wouldʼve expected a hip hop influence?) and though itʼs interesting in its own right, it seems to disrupt the flow. Especially with the sunny pop of the “Life Is…Too $hort” segment tagged on to the end, it becomes an idea soup almost as disorienting as Guided By Voices’ beloved Bee Thousand. I suppose thatʼs as good a reference point as any for this album, though Is Growing Faith has many more fully formed songs than Bee Thousand (as brief as “Art Investor Collector” is, itʼs still no “Kicker Of Elves”). Thatʼs what has always kept me from holding Bee Thousand in the same regard that, well, most every other indie rock fan does, that idea soup phenomenon, and thatʼs what keeps Is Growing Faith from being an absolute masterpiece. It has some incredible songs, the sentimentalism of ballads that close out the album, “When There Is No Crowd” and “You Canʼt Put Your Arms Around A Memory” place those songs amongst the most well written of the year, but without any stylistic or conceptual thread tying these songs together (other than the generic tag of lo-fi pop) this album leaves just a bit wanting. Itʼs a great album, but itʼs kept from being one for the ages based on that disjointedness.