Multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter James O’Brien is arguably best known as the frontman of renowned Melbourne, Australia-based act Boat People, and his solo recording project Darling James has received attention nationally and internationally for hook-laden yet thoughtful and sophisticated take on pop; in fact, EP single “God’s Graffiti” featured metaphysical inspired lyrics paired with an atmospheric yet propulsive production centered around shimmering, arpeggiated synths and propulsive drum programming that to my ears recalled Reptile Youth‘s Away EP — but with an earnest yearning for meaning, for more.
O’Brien’s sophomore Darling James’ effort, MOOD EYES is slated for an August 3, 2018 release, and the material was reportedly first written, pieced together, auditioned, revised and culled from a series of songs and song ideas that made the cut. He then took the initial recordings to long-time collaborator Robin Waters, and the two brought in additional musicians to flesh out the material while Waters began sorting through and mixing the reams of synths, vocals, string arrangements and samples that O’Brien had thrown together. And while seemingly hodgepodge, the material on the EP thematically focus on everything from regret and acceptance, burning the candle at both ends, the joy of leaving a party and the party scene for a loved one and so on. MOOD EYES‘ latest single is sonically centered around shimmering synths, boom bap-like drum programming, an infectious hook and a motorik groove — and while further cementing O’Brien’s reputation as a solo artist, who carefully crafts his material, the song is also a look into both a relationship and a situation in which there’s no easy or certain answer, just increasing confusion and anxiety, and no one to save you.
Directed by Marz Luckhurst, the recently released video stars O’Brien, who sits in the neon lit backseat of a car, during a seemingly endless car ride, as he’s singing the song — perhaps to entertain himself or to keep himself some kind of company; but underneath the surface there’s this sense of a man, who’s probably losing his mind. As O’Brien explains of the video’s treatment, “I wanted the clip to show a slow but dramatic change in someone’s mental state like a religious ecstasy where it’s hard to tell if the person is transcending and in the midst of an amazing experience or completely losing their mind and having an awful time. You could maybe call it ‘manic stability’, i.e. a bit of both! In the end the character seems to be saved or at least calmed by this shark image which is perhaps his version of a totem.”