Love — finding it and losing it — has inspired many a great album, and it's the latter that fueled Dark Dark Dark's Who Needs Who. The third release from the Minneapolis quintet, Who Needs Who picks up where the chamber-folk arrangements of 2010's Wild Go left off: haunting piano and vocals accompanied by dramatic banjos, horns, and accordions. Yet in the strained longing of singer Nona Marie Invie's voice, a transformation can be heard, a change as subtle as the brisk air that blows the autumn leaves from the trees and gives way to winter.
Invie and Marshall LaCount formed Dark Dark Dark and a romantic relationship in 2007, and when they broke up last year, the band also took a brief hiatus. Dark Dark Dark reformed to write and record Who Needs Who, and the fuller, more orchestral sound works to keep up with Invie's insightful lyrics about love and loss that never give way to cliché.
On its first two albums, Dark Dark Dark could have been described as the poor man's Beirut but with a more DIY sensibility — its songs sounded as if they were played on instruments rescued from a pawnshop and recorded in a hatchback traveling the Romanian countryside. On Who Needs Who, Dark Dark Dark's songs are more polished, as evidenced by the two ballads that bookend the album. "Tell Me" further indicates that the band has moved beyond clumsy orchestrations — no longer are its members sensitive kids making noise inspired by jazz and world music — and instead takes itself more seriously, if anything to match Invie's newfound emotional depth. (Supply & Demand Music)