Album Review: Shelby Merry – Dark Ages

Shelby Merry is a singer/songwriter and musician, originally from Southeastern Ohio, but now based in Nashville, Tennessee. I originally discovered her due to the TBS (and later Adult Swim) Sci-fI animated comedy Final Space, which featured examples of her music including ‘Gallows’ which is easily one of my favourite songs, not just in the show but ever, in fact you can check out what I thought of it by clicking here. Today, however, I will be reviewing her album ‘Dark Ages’ which was released on August 20th 2021. 

‘Dark Ages’ is heavy, and builds with a fast paced percussive beat that emerges from the depths of a sustained chord, you also hear vocal bursts, but the vocal don’t really begin in earnest until after we reach the 1 minute mark, and after a frantic, bass driven, percussive melody takes over. I am so impressed by this track, it has a weighty, potent drive that just captures you from that first moment and does not let go. 

‘Shadows’ opens with another fast, bass fueled, percussive beat, and it fills your thoughts even as Merry’s voice blends in. This track has a powerful, theatrical quality, high energy and dark and melodic all at the same time. Interestingly, it’s also surprisingly catchy, the beat is pervasive getting stuck in your head. 

‘Hollywood Teeth’ is very fitting, because it has a bite to it, a harder element that blends with Merry’s naturally melodic voice. It has a synth driven quality to it, that kicks off a superb, electronic breakdown before the vocals kick back in again. I love a song that has an infectious energy to it, it’s not just all kicking and thrashing about, but instead it is built up in such a way as to have peaks and falls and it just overwhelms the listener. 

‘Nashville Boys’ is very different, much slower and much softer than the previous track, and yet you still get caught up. The sonorous, electronic melody really kind of fills you up and yet more so than the previous few songs, you get swept up in the story of the song as much as the powerful energy of the track itself. I liked this one, it was bittersweet, and a little bit quirky and it really stuck in my head after I heard it. 

‘The Truth’ opens with acoustic guitar, and Merry’s rich, melodious voice that blends together well, the track does not remain as stripped back for long, a powerful synthy element is added and it kicks the track up a notch. I talked about it in my previous review, but Merry’s voice is tremendous, especially during songs like this, she has a gravity and depth that few artists can truly match. 

‘Nine Years’ is another truly standout track, I think this is probably my favourite track on the album, because you just fall in love with her voice throughout. I feel like I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, Merry has a tremendous command of her vocal talents and the ability to adequately display her depth and vulnerability. 

‘Love’ opens with a synth driven beat, and swells and grows, it really draws you in, as the chords expand and become more powerful. This track builds, the instrumental backing providing a potent support for Merry’s vocals. 

‘Lone Ranger’ has another awesome synth driven instrumental backing, with some guitar blended in for good measure. This track has intensity and energy and it just blows me away. It is very close behind ‘Nine Years’ as one of my favourite tracks on the album. 

‘Wild Horse’ evokes very specific imagery for me, especially the intro, it feels like the soundtrack to a superhero movie. Imagine the scene in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse where he dresses in his own suit for the first time and takes command of his destiny, I feel like this song has the same potency and emotional resonance to be in that scene. Overall, it’s a really badass song, with a solid percussive beat, and another impressive vocal delivery. 

‘Rodeo (ft. Scooter Wellington)’ opens with a country infused guitar, and I like the balance and melody between Merry and Wellington, together they create a really richly performed vocal number backed up by some awesome guitar. 

‘Live Another Day’ gives us another side to her vocals, this song much like ‘Nashville Boys’ has more of a story structure to it, which really works. I’ve already said before how I just like hearing Merry sing, and with the simple guitar melody backing, we are treated to this song which maintains a jaunty, almost upbeat melody, counterpointed by the actual content of the song, as well as Merry’s vocal style which I think suits these deeper, sadder songs well. 

‘Not The Person’ has some of my favourite vocals of the entire album, the layered harmony with her own voice, and the soft melancholic nature really work well. 

‘Baby’ closes off ‘Dark Ages’ and as the final track it does not disappoint, because it is truly a tremendous and emotional conclusion to what has been an incredible album. I fully expected a return to the style of the first couple of tracks, rather than the more grounded music featured later in the album, but I was surprised and pleasantly so, because this was a solid way to finish things up. 

So that’s what I thought of Shelby Merry’s album ‘Dark Ages’ and if you’d like to check it out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it show support for the artist by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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