At the end of February I was invited to a release day listening party for Otherly’s new album Darkling. The venue was pretty full and the vibe I got was that everyone was digging it. I’d had the opportunity to check out a couple songs ahead of that party, and really enjoyed the songs. I got to meet Justin Martin, the man behind the tunes, and he’s a humble and gracious guy. He seemed genuinely surprised that so many people would come out to hear his music.

The songs on Darkling are thick with texture. The layers allow you to close your eyes and sink into a whole new world of synths and percussion. It all has a sexy, noirish feeling perfect for listening in the bedroom (whether you’re with someone or flying solo). The vocals, provided by Rachel Thomas, act like a guide through the beats, like Charon guiding you across the River Styx.

Thomas and Martin were bandmates in Automata, a group that broke up in the earlier part of the decade. I’m glad the two found one another again, because they seem to share a sensibility and compliment one another very well. This album started out as an instrumental idea, but the vocals that Thomas delivers make these songs so much stronger.

Take, for example, “Kanchanaburi by Night.” It begins with a very lovely minute-long instrumental that is great on its own. Then, Thomas comes soaring in with the lyric “Wake me soon, for I hate to dream.” The whole song is amazing, but this particular moment really highlights the marriage of Thomas and Martin’s talents.

I’ve already added Darkling to my Records Of The Year page. It is undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve heard so far this year. It is maudlin and beautiful and only gets better with repeat listens. You can find it on Spotify, but if you really dig it I recommend buying it directly from the artist on Bandcamp.