Album Review: Dark Hearts

★★★★☆

The last time I saw Slingshot Dakota was in a crowded Brooklyn, N.Y. basement, so packed full of people there was condensation on the walls. The band, obscured by a mass of people, mixed its upbeat power pop with heartfelt, inspirational speeches.

But that’s just the kind of band Slingshot Dakota is: relentlessly positive, even in the face of adversity.

Dark Hearts, the band’s first record in over four years, demonstrates this perfectly. With Carly Comando on keys and vocals and Tom Patterson on drums, Slingshot Dakota blasts through twelve tracks that range from slow-building sing-alongs to pensive, meandering ballads. That might not sound like much distance, but Slingshot Dakota covers it expertly.

These are songs that, by the time they’re over, make you feel like Rob Lowe’s unapologetically positive character on “Parks and Recreation.” Slingshot Dakota achieves this through a genuine synthesis of lyrical weight and musical thrust, marrying pounding melodies to heartbreaking stories, which results in a catharsis as real as it is powerful.

Take highlight “Living/Dreaming,” for instance. Beginning with cascading pianos and pounding tom-toms, it moves quickly into a driving middle section. Comando sings “You say ‘It’s over’/We say ‘It’s just getting started,’” and the song closes out with both members shouting, “We’re just getting started.” It is effortlessly beautiful and so easy to connect with, even when the lyrics focus on ghosts and uncertainty.

What keeps this all from having an annoying, Matt & Kim-style pitchiness is that, in all of its positivity, Slingshot Dakota never forgets the darker realities of being alive.

My personal favorite, “Light,” very frankly deals with abusive relationships and the reasons people fall into them.

In that Brooklyn basement, Comando and Patterson spoke at length about seeing their friends fall into dangerous relationships. They said that the song was meant to remind them - and everyone in the audience - that you shouldn’t, in the words of the song “waste your time on somebody who won’t be the best for you.” It was one of my favorite live moments ever and underscored just how vital this band feels.

While Dark Hearts feels a little empty in spots, mostly due to its two-person lineup, what amazes me is just how little that actually matters.

If you ever need music to remind you just how much you’re worth as a person, make sure to check Slingshot Dakota out. The band deserves every fan it can get.