Darlingside “Everything Is Alive”

Thirty Tigers/The Orchard, 2023

Another brilliant slice of harmonious gorgeousness from the Boston quartet.

The manner in which bands and artists create their material is vitally important and each will have their own way of arranging this. For the four members of Darlingside, the democratic approach has been vitally important and has seen them make four wonderful albums of ‘exquisitely arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop”. Band member Dave Senft explained to AUK recently how, on this album, this all changes slightly:

“The main difference is that we got really used to singing not just together in harmony, but often in unison – there was never a lead singer, or if there was, it was just for one song, and then the next song would have a different singer. But often, we would sing two of us in unison, and there just wasn’t usually one voice as the focus voice. So we very deliberately changed that on this album – there is one person singing the lead for the lion’s share of each song, and there are still harmonies. The songs are still very much co-written, although in this case, the final phase of writing for each song, we deliberately made it a little bit less democratic than what we would normally do.”

Thankfully, this amended process doesn’t make for a significant change in the sound of this new album – it’s still brilliantly evocative, harmony-laden, full of great tunes with the usual idiosyncratic lyrics. And it’s a belter. Make no mistake.

Album highlight ‘Lose The Keys’ opens with glorious guitar strumming and Don’s beautiful voice, before some distorted sounds interrupt and drums add further atmosphere. The lyrics are, as always, wonderfully challenging, including the lines “Goddamn canonical me, A buoy in the ocean of eyes unclosed, Every headline is a footnote”.  Classic Darlingside and superb in every way. ‘All The Lights In The City’ opens on vocals and piano, with some always vital percussion kicking in with lovely guitar – and those harmonies – oh, those stunning harmonies. They make already memorable tunes even better and the chorus is so effective.

Down Here‘ has a gentle single voice and acoustic guitar, with strings gradually introduced and percussion mixed in. The listener is enveloped with lush feelings of wonder, becoming immersed in their audio gorgeousness. ‘Baking Soda‘ begins with percussion and piano work, with another single vocal and harmonies begin and another fantastic tune emerges. Other notables include ‘Sea Dogs‘, another piano/single vocal corker and closer ‘The Breaking Of The Day‘, a piano-focused gem.

These songs have been made in a different manner than we’ve been used to on previous Darlingside albums – but the songs are so powerful and performed with such accomplishment that it doesn’t actually sound any different. The live renditions of these songs will be fascinating to behold – although sadly Dave Senft has decided to exclude himself from touring with the band – but other musicians have been drafted in to take over his contributions.

This is a true stunner of an album – everything we’d been hoping for from a band who are fast becoming the finest exponents of the wonder we call Americana.

9/10
9/10

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