Chicago – Every so often an album comes along that takes your breath away and knocks you to your knees. Dark Days does just that. This remarkable album is the debut from Gold Star, better known as Marlon Rabenreither. Although the former model and painter has previously released music as Johnny Ruby, the founding member of Sister Ruby Band, this is his first solo endeavor. And it is stunning. Gold Star steps away from the dreamy psychedelic rock of Sister Ruby for full-fledged Americana. Dark Days (Starfish Records) is an album you can listen to from start to finish, time and time again, and continuously fall in love with. Rabenreither emotionally belts out tunes that will send shivers down your spine, haunt your heart, and sprinkle tears upon your face.
The album starts out with “At The Dawn.” For Beck fans, the harmonica intro will probably elicit recollections of Sea Change, and once Rabenreither begins to sing, Dylan fans will likely let out a gasp. Just wait till you hear “Dark Days!” However, there’s no mistaking that Rabenreither puts his own spin on modern Americana in Dark Days.
In the lead single “Sadie,” Gold Star evokes a young Chris Isaak, while singing about falling head over heels for his lovely Sadie. If “At The Dawn” didn’t sell you completely, “Sadie” definitely will! It’ll leave you falling head over heels for the enthralling singer-songwriter.
The guitar intro on “Learning The Blues” is perfectly matched with soft, near whisper vocals, and just as the guitar builds up, growing heavy, Rabenreither eventually lets out fierce howls. The intro on “Reckless” is also astonishing. The eeriness of the vocals is enough to line your arms with goose bumps, but then as song progresses, you can’t help but become overcome by the guitars. As Rabenreither told Best New Bands on our recent interview, “You just have to fall into that, you know?” It’s also easy to fall into “Get Down My Devil.” The guitar is splendid and Rabenreither’s vocals somehow manage to become comforting despite the song sounding like something you’d expect to hear play on a show like Sons of Anarchy, during some illicit activity.
“With You” showcases a softer side to Rabenreither. He gently picks his guitar and warmly sings, “I’m on your side / I am the one / I am the moon, the stars, the sun / I am nothing / I am free / I am the colors in your dreams.” Oh, be still, my beating heart!
In the slide-guitar filled “The Line,” Rabenreither sings, “I’ll be someone down the line.” With Gold Star, Rabenreither has already become someone. Every song on this debut is stunning. Dark Days is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.
(Publisher’s Note: Keep an eye out for our interview Gold Star. It’s coming next week.)
Photo Credit: Album Cover by Moni Haworth
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.