Darlingside: Pilot Machines

Darlingside, Pilot MachinesDarlingside: Pilot Machines
Darlingside is a self-described string rock band based out of Northampton, Massachusetts. When they say string, they mean a whole lot of strings. Four of the band’s five members play stringed instruments, including rock standards like guitar and bass guitar, but also mandolin, violin, and cello. When you add in a chorus of voices (all five members contribute vocals,) it results in some very intriguing arrangements. Each band member has a different musical background, many of them started playing classical music or singing as children, one was self-taught later on. They all met at Williams College where they all took songwriting courses or participated in musical groups, which might be the reason for the allusive lyrics and excellent arrangements. Pilot Machines is their first full-length album, following their aptly-titled debut EP, EP 1.

The album sounds like Snow Patrol mixed with City and Colour with a whole lot more strings and more complex vocals. The songs seem to get stronger as the record plays; the first two tracks are heavy on vocal scales with many layers of vocals, but the later songs balance the vocals and instruments expertly. Lead vocals on most of the songs are performed by David Senft though Don Mitchell takes over on “Drowning Elvis,” giving it a deeper, different sound. Mixing classical with their own unique sound, there is a five-second break in “The Woods” in which a Mozart duet is played.

Darlingside seems like a lot of fun. Their website is witty and their video for “Still” involves two googly-eyed sock puppets and glitter. These New Englanders tour as much as possible in a maroon van named Chauncey who has his own page on the band’s site. I highly recommend their “Fan Question” page where members field questions on everything from nutrition to show info to their finances to math problems. Even their name is a clever take on their songwriting professor’s advice to “kill your darlings,” meaning to edit out your favorite lines (or commit darling-cide.) Their cleverness, and probably their professor’s advice, isn’t lost on the songs’ lyrics.

There are plenty of strong tracks on this twelve-song LP, but the standouts are “Ava” and “Blow the House Down.” “Ava” bears a resemblance to City and Colour, especially vocal-wise. “Blow the House Down” packs in references to the “Little Piggies” toe-pulling rhyme as well as “The Three Little Pigs” fairy tale. There are more effects added to this song, making it stand out from the others. Plus in the questions section, one question-less comment reads “Grandpa David and Dee loved ‘Knock (sic) the House Down,” so if that isn’t a cute enough reason to include it as the MP3, I don’t know what is. Grandpa David has good taste.
Rating: 8.8/10
MP3: Darlingside “Blow The House Down”
Buy: iTunes