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Philadelphia's Dark Blue have built a following on the strength of solid jams that nod to Joy Division and moody goth, Britpop, punk, skinhead music, and hooks on hooks. Dark Blue probably only earned the “goth” label because of vocalist John Sharkey III’s Ian Curtis-esque timbre. But, in addition to the deep, poignant voice, musically and lyrically, their earlier material was firmly on the post-punk edge of the spectrum. Their 2014 debut album, Pure Reality, is laced with fuzzy-but-bright bending chords, propelling and haunting riffs, and gruff, unpredictable yelps.Warbled lyrics throughout their debut album and the 2016 follow-up, Start of the World, are dark, political, and cynical. A lot of Victory is Rated is formulaic and slowed down, and lyrics are often repetitive and unimaginative, especially when single, tense vowel sounds are drawn out through a crooning yodel. These are at their pinnacle on “Waterford Crystals” and “She Loves Me.”

However, while they shift to the poppier side, Dark Blue are broadening musically. Firstly, they are filling out their sound by adding a second guitarist, B. David Walsh. Bassist Andy Nelson plays prominent piano melodies on “Different World” and “When You Leave Me in the Summer.” Special guests Kurt Vile and Sara Schimeneck lend their skills on trumpet and keyboard. Drummer Michael Sneeringer has some stand-out tracks, notably “When You Leave Me in the Summer,” where the drums build relentlessly behind fuzzed-out, gazey guitars and a melancholic piano lead.

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