A sparkling synth melody adorns the opening bars of “Darling Anna,” lead single from 2.O.F.’s The Machine EP, but their gilded introduction doesn’t hold a candle to the musical magic that they’ll soon unleash in this debut release from the Tim Milliken-led project. Milliken has invited an ensemble cast of guest players, performance artists and expressionists across various mediums to partake in 2.O.F., and we definitely get the eclectic feel that he was going for in “Darling Anna.” This single is difficult to categorize, as it employs influences from classical A/C, synthpop, alternative rock and electronic club music, but there’s never a moment where the material sounds like the product of a halfhearted hybrid (the likes of which have inexplicably become popular in the late 2010s). 2.O.F. offers up an experimental ballad outfitted with as many sonic frills as it is poetic chills in this hot new single, but casual pop fans needn’t feel intimidated by its highbrow stylization – in all honesty, “Darling Anna” is probably one of the easier listens I’ve heard this July.
This mix is the work of a true professional. Every element of the song is afforded a fair share of the spotlight here, and though the bassline isn’t as prominent a physical force as the percussion is, their cadence defines the underlying grooves in the background better than anything else could have. The synths are bright and shiny, but they never devolve into predictable bubblegum territory because of their beefy, heavily scooped equalization. Even non-audiophiles will have a hard time ignoring all of the subtle detail that was applied to this mix, and I think that you could absolutely make the argument for it being as much of an agent of evocation as any of the actual instrumentation is. “Darling Anna” was crafted with a lot of love and attention to intricacies that most artists simply don’t consider when developing a single, and if that isn’t reason enough to check out this virgin release from 2.O.F., then I don’t know what would be. It might not fit in with the minimalist sound that certain facets of the American underground have been embracing this season, but it doesn’t have to – this song has its own brand of charisma going for it.
If “Darling Anna” and the whole of The Machine are a good representation of what we can expect to hear out of Tim Milliken’s 2.O.F. in the future, then I’m very excited to see what he and his collaborators come up with in the studio next. I’ve been listening to the full EP for the last week, and in that time I’ve come to really appreciate just how open-ended this project could become for the players associated with it. With no specific target audience in mind, there’s no limit to what this pop syndicate could pull off in the right setting, and as long as Milliken continues to boast a free-spirited attitude and liberal approach to songwriting – as he does so excellently in The Machine, and particularly “Darling Anna” – this should be considered a top tier indie follow for both serious listeners and novice, unfamiliar fans alike.