The music that Montreal singer-songwriter Tim Darcy makes with his band Ought wears its stresses as a medal of honor, the backbone of a certain internal tension indebted to post-punk and emo. That Darcy's debut solo album, Saturday Night, doesn't leave out that tension is almost a given; he's a young man with a lot to say. But the record, which was tracked over nights and weekends during the making of Ought's second album, Sun Coming Down, builds its arc of tension over the entire song cycle — a jaunty, fiery rumble-seat ride throughout the America that Darcy once called home.
This detour into Americana soul-searching finds Darcy channeling his mutable voice through two very specific parameters: on one side, Ryan Adams, particularly in his countrified, post-Whiskeytown phase; on the other, Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes, with all his sarcastic offerings to the strictures of coffeehouse folk. The vibrancy of Saturday Night's opening track, "Tall Glass Of Water," reflects the ways in which Darcy bends the form to his will. He kicks off with some incendiary open chords and a galloping rhythm worthy of The Strokes before slowing it down to focus on renewal and understanding his place in the world: "If at the end of the river, there is more river, would you dare to swim again?" Before he can catch a breath, he's back with his response: "Surely I will stay, and I am not afraid / I went under once, I'll go under once again." Now reduced to an unadorned chorale, Darcy lays plain his history and his doubts, exploring the creative balance between strength and tenderness and how best to wield these two often-conflicting energies.
The video for "Tall Glass Of Water" places those forces into a literal perspective, harboring both the angst and the swelling pride that bookend the track. In the opening moments, we see Darcy walking away from himself. As the riff breaks and the song moves into its slightly more solemn second half, he's still in motion, walking into a room filled with people and objects dressed in the red turtleneck and blue blazer he wears throughout the clip. As some of these characters mimic his actions while others do their own thing, Darcy presents the philosophy that he is free not only to pursue various directions, but to make peace with them all. If "Tall Glass Of Water" is meant to be a song of himself, as it were, Darcy visualizes it in terms that would be familiar to Walt Whitman, and that are consistent with the concept of Saturday Night: As an artist, he contains multitudes.
Saturday Night comes out Feb. 17, 2017 on Jagjaguwar.