Don’t bother skipping ahead to the lead singles on A Quiet Darkness, just hit play and enjoy the ride.

Chicago husband and wife duo Houses use their surroundings as their chief influence when writing for an album. Their 2010 debut All Night was recorded on a back-to-nature Hawaiian sabbatical which saw Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina catch the tail end of the chillwave boom with their mixture of dreamy pop and moody moments. In 2013, sun-soaked Hawaii is replaced with the desolation and stark beauty of the Interstate 10 in California. Their sophomore effort A Quiet Darkness sees the band explore more melancholy realms as they put together a concept album based on a “husband and wife separated in the midst of a nuclear disaster and their attempt to reunite with one another before their inevitable deaths, each song taking place in different abandoned houses along the way”…yeah, really.

Despite the (overly) dramatic premise, the album itself isn’t complicated. For the most part, A Quiet Darkness is understated and beautiful electronica, with each song acting as a signpost towards a grander destination. As it was with their previous album, their song-writing style remains linear (and occasionally one-dimensional), rarely veering towards a unexpected directions. However, it’s this simplicity that steers the album narrative. From the solitary piano keystrokes of ‘Carrion’ to the ethereal drones of ‘Smoke Signals’, the album feels like a journey. The balance between moments of love (‘The Beauty Surrounds’, ‘Tenderly’) and moments of loss (‘Peasants’, ‘Big Light’) on A Quiet Darkness culminate with the haunting title track. Cinematic and emotive, you can feel the white lines on the dark highway rushing under you as you listen.

3.5/5 stars


A Quiet Darkness is out now through [PIAS].

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