Kristina Train – Dark Black (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
KRISTINA Train’s biggest hit to date, Dream of Me, is something of a deceptive offering given its retro pop melodies and dreamy, swoon-some chorus. For the album that ensues is mostly a haunting affair that showcases an altogether darker, more heartbroken side to the singer.
In spite of this, it still marks Train out as a formidable force. A sophomore album (and follow-up to 2009’s Spilt Milk), it’s a fantastic, often beguiling showcase of this southern American singer, who deftly combines elements of Norah Jones, Duffy, Dusty Springfield and Joni Mitchell while creating something fiercely distinct.
The tone is set from the opening moments, as opening song and title track Dark Black recalls a failed relationship and the hurtful memories that result. It’s stripped back, moody in the extreme and heartbreakingly sad. But Train, almost effortlessly, has you captivated, especially in the way that she delivers the chorus.
Dream Of Me follows and is as sparkling now as it was when first heard, while a couple of tracks further on her desolate take on Band of Horses’ track No One’s Gonna Love You again resonates emotionally. It’s a heart-melter, steeped in sorrow, yet as haunting as it is beautiful.
Lonely Sinner maintains the low-key tone and vibe but allows the tale of sorrow to unfold amid intricate guitar licks and an electronic bed that’s similarly striking, while a dusky set of vocals laments the “lonely sinner” of the title.
Just occasionally, you might catch yourself hoping for a moment of brightness to alleviate the feelings of loss and pain that are inherent throughout. And, admittedly, the album may have elevated to five-star status had it done so.
But Train’s vocals are so disarming that it’s difficult to resist them, no matter how despondent the album’s themes may ultimately leave you feeling if you really give it your fullest attention.
Saturdays Are The Greatest, for instance, is just so damn sad and yet so darn compulsive (by virtue of those vocals), while I Wanna Live In LA has a sense of longing that can only stem from feeling trapped. That said, it does drop in some bouncier melodies and an impossibly sweet vocal that, again, enchant (and the chorus is one of the best on the LP). Think Morcheeba meets The Carpenters.
The vintage feel that’s also inherent throughout the LP is particularly evident on the disarming Stick Together (where Train’s vocals are just so impossibly dusky), while Love You Tonight (which recalls a relationship on the cusp of failure) manages to maintain a more bittersweet vibe that’s appealing.
But throughout, it’s Train’s vocals that captivate and which make Dark Black a very bright entry into the year’s best albums list.
Download picks: Dream of Me, Lonely Sinner, No One’s Gonna Love You, I Wanna Live in LA, Stick Together, Love You Tonight