by Ryan Snyder

Ever the avatar of the self-marginalized and disenchanted, Jacob Darden’s return to songwriting with Ameriglow is sustained as much by a rehabilitated sense of purpose as it is by opportunity and some unused ideas. His new project’s six-song debut, Anti-Americana: Speaking to the Unconscious Mind of the Southwest, transplants the kind of jubilant, rural-romanticizing tunes that he deployed with biting pathos on Israel Darling sterling first and final LP, Dinosaur Bones & Mechanical Hands, into a insouciant rock-androll taster. The most demonstrable reference point may be American Beauty-era Grateful Dead. Almost all of the electric guitar on “Silent Panic Attacks” sounds as though it was uprooted straight out of Dick’s vault, all sinuous melodies and joshing licks, a little bit accidental and stoned. “Garage Sale Kids” takes an exciting turn as it greets the listener with deliberate “Box of Rain” melancholy before breaking into a marching swell of a half-serious lifestyle evaluation.

“I just think it’s sad how we all turned out,” he sings as he deviates from his diffident croon for a moment. But it’s Darden’s love of shout-along choruses that point to the promise most inherent in Anti-Americana. “It’s all starting to catch up to me now,” he continues. “I’ll have a couple more drinks and I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” Given the abundant twists and turns, the playing is actually tidier than it appears at times. “Welcome to the USO” surfs along on a crest of submerged pedal steel and Hammond, while opener “Bella Moore” steadfastly peels away the songs layers to reveal the gorgeous depth. For having been away so long, Darden still has a deft touch for song and with Ameriglow, he’s in the right company.