Part of the joy in attending music festivals is discovering new artists who have been given little opportunity to share their music with a wider audience. Such was the case with Darwin's Radio, a four-man band that flew in to tiny Phoenixville, Pa., from England for its first-ever U.S. gig at April's Rites of Spring Festival and proceeded to win over plenty of new fans – including this one.
On its full-length debut CD, Eyes of the World, Darwin's Radio sounds nothing like the neo-progressive music of Grey Lady Down or The Spirit of Rush tribute outfit – earlier bands to which members of Darwin's Radio once belonged. Instead, this is an elegant and refreshing mix of Enchant and Vanden Plas, along with some musical passages that recall The Flower Kings in their heavier moments.
Vocalist/guitarist Declan Burke is the centerpiece of the band, his clear vocals making every song soar, and his soulful guitar solo on the slow-building ballad "Windows to Your Soul" defines the sound of Darwin's Radio. Keyboardist Mark Westworth's playing isn't far behind, adding sweeping symphonic passages to songs already laden with emotion. Not surprisingly, Burke and Westworth are the band's two key writers, but it is drummer David Pankhurst who delivers with the upbeat, feel-good "Glass Tiger's Eye" – a song that gains strength as it goes, and at four minutes is the closest Eyes of the World comes to a traditional rock song. "Lapse of Sensation" opens with Pink Floyd flair, the heavy instrumental "Eccentric Orbits" takes off with a little bit of everything Darwin's Radio has to offer, and "The Vast Within" closes the album with a beautiful promise of what this band is capable of achieving on its next record. If one track on Eyes of the World has to be a semi-dud, it would be "Amber Skies" – a tender, piano-based ballad that doesn't prove as memorable as the album's other seven tracks. Even so, Eyes of the World ranks as a classy, accessible and professional debut. (And if you had a chance to speak with the guys in Darwin's Radio at RoSfest, you know that their music seems to just be a reflection of themselves.)
3) Windows to Your Soul
4) Glass Tiger's Eye
5) Lapse of Sensation
6) Eccentric Orbits
7) Amber Skies
8) The Vast Within