September 20, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
Darlingside – Everything Is Alive
Everything Is Alive, Darlingside’s fourth LP, marks a subtle but remarkable departure for the Boston-based quartet NPR once described as “exquisitely arranged, literary minded, baroque folk-pop.” While the album retains much of the lushness and sophistication of Extralife (2018) and Fish Pond Fish (2020), the band’s latest work decisively exposes and differentiates the individual voices of the four songwriters—a daring reinvention for a group known for ubiquitous vocal harmonies. Grappling with change both personal and universal, with quandaries domestic and existential, Everything Is Alive is an album about loss and the struggle for a semblance of redemption.
Comprised of Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner and David Senft, four likeminded multi-instrumentalists who first met at Williams College in 2009, Darlingside’s career has been defined by the elegance of their compositions and the unity of their four voices. Their talent for harmony and melodic world-building is part of what garnered praise from outlets like NPR, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, and what has created demand worldwide for their extraordinary live performances. Becoming beautifully unindividualized has, in other words, worked very well for Darlingside in the past. With a vigor and discipline more common to graduate-level writing workshops than to indie rock, Darlingside has, over the years, experimented with all manners of idiosyncratic methods for elevating and upholding a truly democratic process of songwriting—processes that include multiple rounds of group writing and recording exercises—all with the aim of escaping the trap that bands with multiple songwriters often fall into: ego-driven infighting and artistic incoherence.
On Everything Is Alive, then, Darlingside is taking a risk. Nudged by the limitations created by pandemic isolation, as well as through other more voluntary catalysts, the album, which was produced and recorded by the band and mixed by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine), foregrounds in a sustained and heretofore untried way the individual voices of each member. Where once the harmonies formed a hard-won sonic unification, Everything Is Alive showcases the four singers as they alternate (more or less) song for song, an approach that rewards listeners with a sense of personal ownership and, therefore, a new degree of intimacy and nuance.
Opener: Louisa Stancioff
Born and raised in rural Maine, Louisa Stancioff has emerged as a gifted writer with a cinematic eye for richly detailed, emotionally-charged character studies that grapple with the complexities of loneliness and desire, freedom and regret, guilt and forgiveness. A nomadic soul who spent stints living in Alaska, California, New York, and North Carolina before returning home, she grew up learning traditional Bulgarian music from her paternal grandfather’s side of the family and reveled in singing American folk and roots tunes with her friends. She picked up piano and fiddle during her elementary and high school years, and in college, launched a band with her cousin Matt called Dyado (a play on “Diado,” which means grandfather in Bulgarian). The pair crisscrossed the US on tour for nearly three years, camping and couch surfing their way around the country until 2020, when Stancioff struck out on her own.
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