If we were still in the ’90s, or early 2000s, or heck, even now, and I had a crush on someone and was making them a mixed tape, CD or, dare I say, playlist, I would absolutely include a track from the latest Darlingside record “Extralife.” In fact, I’d likely start said mix with the dreamy, swoon-worthy title track that opens the album.
This would achieve a few goals in one fell swoop: My crush would know I have outstanding taste in music, therefore thinking I’m way cooler than I actually am, and I’m certain they’d become an instant fan of the Boston-based neo-folk-pop band, coming to Port City Music Hall on Saturday. All-around win in my book.
This brings to mind a quote from British writer (and pal to Oscar Wilde) Ada Leverson, who said, “You don’t know a woman until you have had a letter from her.” I’ll add that you can’t really know someone until you have an understanding of their musical tastes.
As I write this, I’m wearing a wistful yet amused smile and hoping that somewhere out there in the universe is a handful of carefully curated compilations on tape and disc form nestled in and amongst random other junk in a long-forgotten basement box, complete with handmade covers and the song names written with a black, razor-point Sharpie.
All of this is to say, “Extralife” is a gorgeous album, and it immediately elicited an “everyone needs to hear this” response in me. So do yourself – and any possible crushes – a favor and get to know this band and this album posthaste.
The last time I wrote anything substantive about Darlingside was in 2015, when they released “Birds Say,” and I raved about the four-part harmonies and how they sounded like they were straight out of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the ’60s. Three years later, that’s still true, and my adoration for the band has grown more sizes than the Grinch’s heart. The first few lines of “Extralife,” set upon a bed of gentle keys, are “It’s over now, the flag is sunk, the world has flattened out/Under the underground I’ve always found a level further down/As I begin to lose hold of the fiery flowerbeds above, mushroom clouds reset the sky.”
While this may sound like end-of-the-world verse, the gents of Darlingside sing these words in a way that can be best be described as resplendent. Speaking of the gents, Darlingside is bassist and guitarist Dave Senft, guitarist and banjo player Don Mitchell, violinist and mandolinist Auyon Mukharji and cellist and guitarist Harris Paseltiner. They’ll be celebrating their 10-year anniversary as a band next year.
“Extralife” continues to float down its dreamy river with “Singularity,” and again, in printed form, the lyrics come across as foreboding: “Someday a shooting star is gonna shoot me down/Burn these high rises back into a ghost town of iridium white clouds.” Perhaps I’ve just hit upon the genius of Darlingside: thought-provoking lyrics cloaked in darkness, yet delivered by four folk angels who will fill you with pure, unfiltered hope.
“Hold Your Head Up High,” with acoustic guitar that sounds like it’s floating in the air and some perfectly placed horn, is my current favorite “Extralife” track. “Rise it up, it’s fine terrain/The time will come again/And misery’s no rest for weary gentlemen.”
“Extralife” is also home to one of the shortest songs you’ll ever hear. “Rita Hayworth” clocks in at 51 seconds, but it packs a lot in with about 40 words. This is the kind of song that, back in the compilation tape-making days, would be perfect to use up that last bit of tape on side one.
Here’s the video to “Best of The Best of Times” , another fantastic “Extralife” track.
For the fun of it, I sent a hail-Mary Facebook message to Mukharji, asking what his favorite “Extralife” song is. He politely responded but told me that he can’t name a favorite because it changes depending on his mood and on where he’s eaten chocolate recently. Read: I love this guy! But then he followed this up a few hours later and told me he’s been thinking a lot about “Indian Orchard Road.” “I love the string arrangement on that song, and it’s one that I’d love to learn to play live as it’s one of the few we haven’t tackled yet.” I listened to it three times in a row and agree 100 percent about the strings. They’re spellbinding. But then again, so is this entire record.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 in advance, $18 day of show, 18-plus
TICKETS & INFO: portcitymusichall.com