With the release of “Birds Say,” Darlingside, a four-piece indie-folk band out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has graduated from a band that I’ve always liked to one that I absolutely love. The album is home to 13 songs that showcase four-part harmonies, shared leads on melodies and lots of singing in unison.
The opening song, “The Ancestor,” with the lyrics, “There is little else for me now/but I will find my way/out of the dark someday/into a crimson yellow sun,” sung by all four band members in unison, is almost larger than life despite ultimately being a gentle song. I wasn’t alive for the early ’60s folk scene of Greenwich Village, but Darlingside would have fit right in, like a scene out of “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
Hear for yourself the magic of “The Ancestor”
The very next song, “White Horses,” continues on the path of vocal perfection accompanied by banjo, acoustic guitar and piano. Then comes the third one, “Harrison Ford.” One might think it’s a novelty song about the actor, but it’s actually a snapshot of a day-in-the-life of a person making their way through traffic to a job interview. With shining moments of mandolin and cello, it’s revealed that the guy gets the job. The force is definitely with this song. “I make it to the bus, not a second to spare/but there’s freeze-frame traffic till the intersection where I am scheduled for a meeting with a man who looks like Harrison Ford.” The song’s pace goes from chill to frenzied and back again.
Take a listen to “Harrison Ford”
Darlingside is bassist Dave Senft, guitarist and banjo player Don Mitchell, classical violinist and folk mandolinist Auyon Mukharji and cellist and guitar picker Harris Paseltiner. On “Birds Say” you’ll also some Wurlitzer, auto-chord organ and grand piano. The band formed in 2009 in Hadley, Massachusetts, and first met while students at Williams College. Their debut record, “Pilot Machines,” was released in 2012 and falls more on the rock side of the musical spectrum, though you can certainly hear many glimpses of what was to come.
In 2013 they parted ways with their longtime friend and drummer, Portlander Sam Kapala. This led to the band firmly planting roots in a more acoustic sound, though don’t be surprised to hear some electric fuzz at their Portland performance.
As for the band’s quirky, peculiar name, it came from a former teacher who used to say “kill your darlings,” meaning if you fall in love with something you’ve written, you should cross it out. They changed the “c” to an ‘s” and ended up with Darlingside because they thought the other spelling was too death focused. I’m not sure if I agree with the teacher’s sentiment, but I like the band name that came out of it.
“Birds Say” was released on Sept. 19 and is available in the usual locales. But you can also pick it up at Port City Music Hall after what will surely be a fantastic, harmony-heavy show from a band that is hopefully just getting started.
The closing track on “Birds Say” is “Good for You” which repeats the line “I want to be good for you.” Truth is, they already are much more than that.
Darlingside with Kyle Morgan. 8 p.m. Friday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show, $20 preferred seating, 18-plus. portcitymusichall.com