The Strangled Darlings occupy a place in the growing category of freak folk, with an emphasis on the freak. The Portland, Ore., duo of George Veech and Jessica Anderly offer a puzzling array of death marches, gypsy romps, country rock, jazz instrumentals and operatic ballads on an album that's as lyrically dark as it is musically twisted.
I think fun is supposed to be part of the equation, especially on the more up-tempo and tongue-in-cheek tracks, but the good times can be hard to find. Perhaps that's because Veech sings in a stunted howl, like some snake-oil salesman with a short fuse or a disturbed curbside preacher. It's a frantic vocal style that's not for everyone.
The lyrics can be equally rough, but there's something to be said for writing a song about the late business magnate best known for marrying model Anna Nicole Smith. "J. Edgar Howard" kicks up some dirt while telling his life story, with Veech delivering devilish lines like "Anna Nicole, girl, / Your tits have grown cold." It's a sinister spinone that Strangled Darlings wouldn't have any other way.
The Strangled Darlings play the Top Hat Fri., August. 3, at 10 PM with the Super Saturated Sugar Strings and Michael Howard. $5.