Audio Mixer: Al Carlson.
Kuroma's previous albums proved that they're masters of psychedelic pop's trippy mischief, but on The Dark Horse Rides Again, they explore the style's transcendence. Frontman Hank Sullivant converted to Catholicism after being inspired by his wife's devotion to the faith, and these songs reflect newfound emotional and spiritual dimensions; the sheer heft of the opening track, "A Day with No Disaster," hints that the album is about something big. However, The Dark Horse Rides Again is at its best when Kuroma express profound concepts like love and faith in personal ways. The jubilant "Tennessee Walker" is a playful look at Sullivant's musical and spiritual path: "Piedmont pilgrim in the Valley of Tears/You dry your eyes, you drink a beer." On "Perfect Girl" and "I Don't Know What I Should Do," the band evokes forebears like the Beach Boys, George Harrison, and Mercury Rev, all of whom merged sublime beauty and a searching quality in songs that felt like they barely contained the emotions they expressed. More than ever, Kuroma's songs deal in Technicolor extremes, with radiant highs like the Of Montreal-esque "The Sun Is Too High" and "Uprising"'s dazzling harmonies countered by soul-searching lows. Kuroma means "dark horse" in Japanese, and Sullivant and company took inspiration from the way artists such as Vincent Van Gogh used their turbulent moods in their work. The band grapples with spirituality and despair, whether resisting a seductively easy path on the glistening "In a California Way" or struggling to see things clearly on the introspective "I Want the Kingdom" and "The Island in Me." Throughout it all, Kuroma's winning sincerity and unique perspective make The Dark Horse Rides Again their most captivating album yet. ~ Heather Phares