Artist Reviews

Darling James – Theory of Mind (EP Review)

Written by Sean Wales

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You probably haven’t had a lot to do with Darling James as of yet.  Relatively new to the Aussie music scene, ‘the man with the hair’ has TODAY released his brand new, debut EP Theory of Mind.  Combining indie-pop guitar rhythms with sharp, soulful synths and the odd bone screeching guitar solo, multi-instrumentalist James O’Brien (Darling James) has created a record full of melancholic vibes and easy-listening pop tunes that will be certain to feature at many a summer pool party.



Darling James



The first track off the EP is hardly a surprise to those likely to have Triple J on regular rotation.  Ultimatum Talk was released in 2015 and was the first glimpse of James O’Brien’s latest project (having featured in The Boat People prior to creating Darling James).  Dealing with the stark realities of a break up, Ultimatum Talk sets the tone and theme for much of the record.  The opening tune comes across as a conversation inside O’Brien’s own mind.

Feelings of frustration, doubt and regret dominate the opening with James capturing the delicateness of relationships through the soft and tender sounds of the ukulele, mandolin and marimba.  The song emphatically builds up to an exhaustion of emotion with crashing drum hits and added layers of synth and bass expressing the mess and confusion of one’s mind.


God’s Graffiti follows, the single that was released about a month ago as a nifty little teaser for the EP.  In my opinion, it is the highlight of the album and showcases what Darling James is all about: unpredictable, upbeat, indie-pop tunes.  Screeching guitar solos, funky drum fills and a catchy chorus that sticks with you long after the song has finished make this one of my favourite new tunes of 2016! 


The next few tracks on the album are more solid contributions from Darling JamesAche and Bend moves away from generic indie-pop with O’Brien’s voice coming across as distant and slightly muddled.  Certainly a change of pace and instrumentation, Ache and Bend seems to be in a way an experimentation for James.  I prefer the previous guitar and ukulele based pop tunes but Ache and Bend certainly holds its own on the album as an experimental jam that highlights the blurriness of the mind.  James returns to the faster pace of the opening songs in The Itch and impressively shows the versatility of his calming voice.  Transitions between higher and lower notes are seamless and the chorus demands a subtle groovy sway.



How Far Will You Go is a wonderfully crafted slower tune.  Darling James vocals sits comfortably alongside a catchy guitar riff.  There is a sense of understanding coming from the tune, as if O’Brien is beginning to comprehend his mind.  The relaxedness of the song brings with it a feeling that his mind is under control and not running all over the place as it was in Ache and Bend.  The song is well controlled and free-flowing. 


Rounding off a highly successful and encouraging debut EP is Indonesian Cigarette (funnily enough, I find myself sitting in Bali, Indonesia writing this review!).  Drums drive the tune forward sprightly, but not hastily out of control, suggesting the need to reign in one’s mind from the chaos that surrounds it.  Leaning to an indie-rock feel, Indonesian Cigarette acknowledges that the mind is confusing, forever changing and insecure, but one that can be navigated with a bit of persistence and encouragement.


Darling James’ debut EP has been well put together and speaks to a familiar topic for every person – the chaotic forest that is one’s mind post-break up and just in general.  Playing almost every instrument on the album, O’Brien is a talented multi-instrumentalist and we wait anxiously for his next music!








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Sean Wales

November 18th, 2016

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Sean Wales

Hey! I'm a 20 year old Melbourne Uni student with a passion for writing, music, sport and travel.  I am hoping to forge a career in the media sector and Amnplify is a great place to start creating!

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