Sometimes, one comes across an album so stunningly beautiful, it’s hard to adequately describe it. Words like “serene”, “surreal” and “radiant” come readily to mind, but in reality, they only hint at that shimmering glow that seems to emanate from within.
That would seem to be the case with Darlingside’s debut, a gilded set of songs so breathtaking in its design, it practically steals your breath away. Based in Cambridge Massachusetts, the group’s comprised of four equally adept singers — Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and David Senft — all of whom share a passion for folk and finesse, as evidenced by the way they meld their voices and creativity so seamlessly. The result is a pure, ethereal sound of the highest standard. The tones and textures are sublime, fostering an immediate comparison to Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills and Nash in their most reverent circumstances. Given the intimate collaboration and exquisite interplay, that case could be made. But in truth, the similarities are insignificant. Darlingside is brimming with both originality and ambiguity, making any of the usual role models seem superfluous.
Consequently, Birds Say rests on a pedestal all its own. Gloriously striking and serene, the group demands attention from the first notes on. Opening track “The Ancestor” makes a regal first impression, seemingly to soar in a striking display of absolute iridescence. That sets the stage for the series of spectacular soundscapes that follow, each seemingly richer and more riveting than the rest. The mellow drift purveyed in songs such as “Clay & Cast Iron”, “Birds Say”, and “The God of Loss” appear so spectral, they demand full uninterrupted attention. The skittish “Harrison Ford” and an upbeat “Go Back” vary the pace, but in truth, it’s the reverence imbued in each of these songs that creates such a striking impression. Mournful violins, ambient guitars, plucked cello and the sweep of strings all add to the mix, affirming the atmospheric ambiance that permeates every note and nuance. Still, it’s difficult to single out any one song over another, given that the album seems to flow so uniformly, imbuing it with a conceptual feel overall.
As a result, Darlingside set themselves up for special distinction, binding folk and indie rock through a sound uniquely their own. They’ve created breathless anticipation for whatever comes next, while facing the challenge of how they’ll manage to top themselves the next time around. It won’t be easy, but if this first outing is any indication, it will be interesting to hear them try.