It’s true that breakups can be a catalyst to endearing music. Much like it sounds, Dark Dark Dark’s Who Needs Who carries a heavy heart, written during the parting of singer/pianist Nona Marie Invie and bandmate/multi-instrumentalist Marshall LaCount. And though challenging under the circumstances, each member manages to translate mixed emotions into a musical synergy that’s deeply private and revealing. Who Needs Who shows the group not only maturing as a band, but also as long-time friends rediscovering common ground with one another.
Perhaps it’s the piano-driven chamber folk or the wistful lyrics that make the music seem interlocked with deeper meaning, but even at the surface, this Minneapolis-based collective confronts emotional intensity with immediate poise and clarity. Like its past albums, Who Needs Who revolves around the husky vocals of Invie. Her somber piano playing and lingering vocal melodies create an undeniable bond as the record takes shape, retreating now and then to take refuge behind layers of instrumentation.
For a band that has toured quite a bit, this new record sounds well travelled, less rooted in daydreaming whimsy than in everyday experiences. This might be most apparent in “Without You,” with its breezy, Parisian-style accordion, but it also shows itself lyrically on pieces like “Meet in the Dark” and “Patsy Cline” — well-rounded compositions containing some of the record’s most harrowing, personal performances.