More Doug Records · February 23, 2018
On their latest album, Darlingside creates a complicated apocalyptic world where the lyrics are a puzzle for the listener to put together. Extralife feels like following a map and realizing somewhere along the way that you don’t even know where you’re going. The four piece Boston based folk band took a turn from folk on this album to include elements of computerized sound which work alongside the overarching lyrical theme of a dystopian future. However, the highs in the band’s third album are inconsistent as several songs land unfortunately forgettable.
Darlingside succeeds when they focus on their strengths: perfect harmonies. Frequently referred to as the second coming of the Beach Boys, the band’s four part harmonies are unlike anything in music right now. This is seen best on the lead single from Extralife, ‘Hold Your Head Up High.’ The harmonies are put on display over a simple acoustic guitar. Throughout the song a horn joins in to create this gentle theme of encouragement. It’s as uplifting as Darlingside gets on Extralife and the simplicity of it all is breathtaking.
The only time that I’m willing to fully get on board with this combination of computerized sound and folk is on the depressing track ‘Eschaton.’ The quartet lays slight computerization underneath their signature acoustic guitar and harmonies. Lyrically, the song leans on political commentary in the chorus, “I hear the eschaton / I see our stripes on floating ground / no matter what we’ve been, we are the upshot now.” The calmness of it all sounds like Darlingside have come to terms with the future, even if it does look bleak to them.
Some of the most interesting parts of Extralife come when you actually listen to the lyrics and piece together this universe Darlingside has created. On ‘Singularity,’ the quartet examines the crimes we’ve committed against our environment. Appropriately titled, the band sees the world as one overcome with technology, unable to return to the past. They sound somber over lyrics about the end of the world, “see the reddening horizon line / feel the planet spilling on the space time / on the way down Somerset I take pictures of sun rest / for the history books on Mother hill.” Their experimentation with new sounds takes a backseat on this song, honestly for the better. Another unique moment on Extralife happens in the quick fifty second, ‘Rita Hayworth.’ The band wonders what it would be like to “be loved like a heartbeat.” They list off this seemingly random list of beloved women from the 50’s which is interesting but also makes me confused about how this song fits in with the rest of the record.
Even though these four songs I mentioned are unique, most of the rest of the album becomes forgettable. ‘Futures’ just plain bothers me. The verses are hectic and annoying with this weird quick paced guitar that doesn’t sound like it belongs on the album. Then in the chorus everything calms down into a beautiful harmony. It’s frustrating that they combined these two sounds together on one song. Another song that I really tried to like was ‘Old Friend.’ The instrumentation is really fun, with the slight sound of a flute in the background throughout the entire song. But without any real hook, the song falls flat and you forget what you just listened to as soon as it ends.
Overall a couple of the songs on Extralife are very exciting, making me think that the album would have been more successful as an EP. However forgettable the rest of the album is, those few songs have me holding out hope for the future of Darlingside.