Take "Catalina," for example: the consummate portrayal of the group’s strengths. The song's first half consists of a hushed guitar strum, sparkling piano and a steady, mid-tempo rhythm to guide them. It's morose and contemplative in a way that's almost reminiscent of the dampened grandeur Modest Mouse perfected on The Moon & Antarctica.
Yet at the track's halfway point, as if to fend off the melancholy, "Catalina" is reborn as a jovial, synth-driven dance number with an instantly infectious hook. The left turn represents not only a stark shift in dynamics, but also the originality that's largely unexplored throughout Dark Hearts’ remainder.
Each song here is easily discernible from the others. Yet it's clear the band made a strident effort to mix things up from track to track — an admirable, but ultimately contrived endeavor. Some take on a darker, more industrial temperament ("Beauty and the Beast," "Never Get Out"), and these are the moments that distract from and, frankly, flat-out ignore The Grown Ups’ strengths.
Ironically, the more lighthearted melodies offer the most mystique — moments when The Grown Ups’ talent and sincerity are plainly evident. Ultimately, however, Dark Hearts sounds like a band still in search of its true self. —Zach Hale