Sometimes you have to change things up, and when the pandemic struck Darlingside had to figure out a new way to work, resulting in Everything Is Alive. The old ways of recording simply wouldn’t work, and with Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner and David Senft locked down hither and yon, a new approach was needed. They turned to Tucker Martine to mix recordings made in various locations, creating an album that sounds like it was recorded with everyone in the same room.
For a band that has always specialised in four-part harmony, they took an even bolder step, deciding on some tracks to feature one person signing lead while the others harmonised. The difference may not seem like much, but to a band built on singing together continually this is a radical shift in the way things are done. It also reflects that most of these tracks were written separately without input from the others, another result of the pandemic.
Sung virtually acapella, ‘How Long Again’ showcases the band‘s harmonies in a way that makes the song that follows, ‘Down Here’, sound almost radical in counterpoint. Amid the drums, and violin, with the sound of a single voice getting mirrored during the track by single notes coming from a piano, one begins to realise that the musical shifts in sound are equally as exciting as the notion of a single voice replacing the sound of four men singing as one.
Featuring sounds that have been shaded by the work of previous generations, from James Taylor to Eddie Baird of Amazing Blondel, Darlingside’s ‘Sea Dogs’ illustrates how unsettling life could be during the endless numbered days, “I can’t wake up all the time/or even half the time or/even be on time.” Piano and keyboards reflect the sense of uncertainty and isolation while later Paseltiner suggests, “when up in the clouds are sea dogs/and kites and big white basketballs/the backyard is thickening/how is it everything/everything is alive/alive, alive.” There is the yin and yang to the notion that everything is simply one way. Life isn’t that simple.
The secret to Everything Is Alive is that we live in a world where notions and nuances create conditions that force one to exist in a world of contradictions. Those contradictions are a constant. Nothing is simple and straightforward. Our world is in a constant state of change. Darlingside holds up a mirror to that world and suggests that all we can do is sing. Sing to the pain and the joy. Especially the joy.