Darlingside: Two Shows
If Darlingside’s first album, Birds Say (2015), focused on the past through nostalgia and memory, and their second, Extralife (2018), contemplated uncertain futures, Fish Pond Fish (2020) stands firmly in the present, taking stock of what’s here and now.
Fish Pond Fish is one of geology, meteorology, ornithology, astronomy and botany. Band members Dave Senft (vocals, bass), Don Mitchell (vocals, guitar, banjo), Auyon Mukharji (vocals, violin, mandolin), and Harris Paseltiner (vocals, cello, guitar) have created a natural history in song. An album that catalogues the weird nooks of our world with the same curiosity of a botanist’s time-worn field journal. We’re led through old growth forests, down to the deep sea’s ‘true blue bottom where the light ends,’ and up to a few singled-out stars that shine ‘ochre’ overhead. Introduced with Woolgathering–as much a beckoning as it is a first track–we are then taken through an album of gardens, orchard rows, almond groves, and past morning glory vines. With daisies and tidal shifts, singing cicadas and insects blowing over the ocean, murmurations of starlings and a circling sparrow hawk, we enter an ecology of emotional experience. “Through the oak and poison ivy,” the four sing in Green + Evergreen, “As the lemon light was alkalining / I was growing, I was dying / Growing I was dying.” Here is an album to use alkaline when thinking sunlight, and, more, finds the word best to describe that great organic paradox of growing towards death.
The band, which saw their ten-year anniversary in May of 2020, has long been praised for their harmonies and intelligent songwriting, described by NPR as “exquisitely-arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop,” and which The New Yorker compared to David Crosby and the Byrds. Their dynamic presence (crowded tightly together onstage for the audience to witness four voices turn to a singular texture of sound), paired with their sharp wit and wordplay, have made them a live-performance favorite, and their songs treasures for literary and lyric-loving fans.