2020 forced all of us into isolation. For many artists, the amount of time and lack of activities can push them forward with creative outlets and endeavors. Darren Jackson, aka Kid Dakota, is a prime example of this. Living in rural South Dakota alone, he became obsessed with making collages. After making his 40th collage in two months and looking at the paper and paste sticking up everywhere, he decided on using that same energy to finish Age of Roaches.
Although Age of Roaches was not written during the pandemic, the themes and vignettes of the album can certainly feel like a pandemic album. Through the 8 track, 45 minute album we hear about the fear and anxiety that can be produced by things we can’t control. The disparate themes of nuclear annihilation, ecological collapse, addiction, and physical trauma are layered into the postmodern concept album.
Opening with the title track “Age of Roaches“, the slow march of drums and guitar open a door into the album. Kid Dakota’s vocals warmly host you as you weave deeper into edgy guitars and harmonies. The song is a welcoming mat to the destruction and errors of our race, a premonition of dark possibilities. It’s a warning of our predicaments and severity of choices. There are hints of the influence of Pink Floyd and Radiohead, but mixed with a strong indie-rock template that Kid Dakota does so well. It’s a solid opening introduction to the vibe and soundscape you’re about to hear.
Kid Dakota enlisted an all star field of musicians from Alan Sparhawk (LOW), Jeremy Ylvisaker, Christopher McGuire, Ian Prince, Matthew Kazama, and Justin Korhonen and jumped into various recording studios like the legendary Pachyderm (Cannon Falls) and Sacred Heart (Duluth). The album also signals a turning point in Darren Jackson’s approach as a producer. The trademark simplicity that has been Kid Dakota’s identifying mark graduates on Age of Roaches. The minimalism takes on a new set of details and sounds that adds depth and the ability to keep discovering parts on repeated listening.
“Prairie Flowers” succeeds in this new approach with an eerie spoken word built-up, warm chimes, the distant vocals, and the final tapering down into echos. Lyrically “Prairie Flowers” is an example of the rawness and emotion that Darren can pack into a track. You can feel the pain and visuals. Each song has a carefully crafted landscape that you feel like you walk into each time.
“Futurecide” opens with an electronic keyboard inviting you up into the song. The sparse verse brilliantly bridges into an opening guitar part and indie-rock drum part that courses throughout.
“I feel the message in my head
A place to go and it’s not here
We will be taken from our beds
We won’t ever need to eat again”
The depth of themes and melancholy of the album come to climax with the final track “Stephen Hawking”. The song is another sonic tour of Kid Dakota’s craft. Time and space are masterfully on display as a tiny keyboard is your guide through the fade out. The lines that hold hope and a step forward lay inside.
Could be seen as a solution
History might be the problem
What we need are new beginnings”
Age of Roaches is a grand collage of important conversations with layers of sonic complexities placed on top. Pasted and pieced together, it’s an album that commands repeated listens, uncovering new places to sit and observe our current landscape. And at the end of the album, there’s a glimmer of new beginnings and meaningful intentions.
Darren now lives in Northeast Minneapolis while still teaching music in South Dakota via Zoom. Find his new album here from Graveface Records as a special vinyl or digital download.