Tim Darcy of Ought has a histrionic vocal style that immediately brings to mind some familiar touchstones: late-’70s punk (Voidods), mid-’80s pop (Echo & the Bunnymen), and early-’00s New York (French Kicks). In a review of their third album (and first on area indie stalwart Merge), Room Inside the World, Pitchfork described the band as “a young Scott Walker fronting the Gang of Four.” But this Montreal quartet is carrying more than a jumble of influences. Sure, there’s the jangle and strut of those aforementioned bands, but moments like the rhythmic breakdown in “Disaffectation” show a group exploring the very limits of a post-punk song. “Desire” comes on like a progressive house track before Darcy accompanies a choir’s transcendent presence. During closer “Alice” (named for Alice Coltrane), a woozy drone overtakes a moody bass pulse; by the album’s end, though, a resolution is nowhere to be found. They’ve pulled a sonic hat trick.
Through it all, Darcy’s voice shines, dipping into lower registers to croon seductively or rising into frenetic affectations as he highlights the modern North American human condition—isolation from people, connection with machines, loss of personal space. But rather than leaping out of the speakers to confront a listener with gloomy proclamations, there’s a sense of empathy, as if he knows what you’re going through: As he sings during “Take Everything,” “You only want to be needed.”