DARLINGSIDE – Extralife (More Doug Records MDR003)

ExtralifeSomeone who knows rather a lot about these things has been saying for two years that I should go and see Darlingside. I haven’t seen them, but I jumped at the chance to review the CD. I really should have listened to his advice earlier – Extralife is rather classy, if somewhere outside simple categorization.

Essentially, what they create is beautifully smooth vocals above a mix of instrumentation. Harris Paseltiner, one of the quartet that make up Darlingside, describes how they created their sound “Each song and set of lyrics are created by all of us together, a sort of ‘group stream-of consciousness’. So we moved away from a single lead vocalist and started gravitating towards singing in unison, passing the melody around, or harmonizing in four parts through an entire song.” For me the smoothest song ever released was the Taylor, Garfunkel, Simon version of Sam Cooke’s ‘What A Wonderful World’. Imagine a whole album that can keep that kind of fine harmony without ever sliding into chocolate box cutesiness – and you have an idea of where Darlingside are at and how well they do it.

Darlingside’s YouTube channel describes them as “Indie Folk from Cambridge, MA” which gives you some sense of their genre. But the best way to get a sense of this rather inimitable sound is simply to have a listen. The link at the foot of the article takes you to a YouTube video of the final track on the album ‘Best Of The Best Of Times’. Their home page describes “arch humor, cryptic wordplay, and playful banter that the four close friends share on and off stage—but the music Darlingside plays is serious, cinematic, and deeply moving”. The visuals on the video show you their humour; the music lets you hear their deeply affecting sound.

It’s not an album to go through individual tracks on – there are some things you can’t break down into pieces without losing the sense of the whole, of what it is. This album is one of those. I’ll simply add that everyone who’s passed the stereo or sat in the car recently has purred, “Oh that’s nice/that’s lovely” etc.

There’s a handful of chances to see them in the near future as they are on tour in Ireland and the UK between May 4th and May 13th.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website: http://www.darlingside.com/about/

‘Best Of The Best Of Times’ – official video: