(Photo Credit: Cameron Gee)

Darlingside, an indie-folk band from Massachusetts, is the perfect first musical group to highlight in Things Graceful.

Standing in a crowd at a Darlingside performance is something akin to attending a church, temple, or mosque.  Or a sacred ceremony, spiritual ritual, in any place of worship.  As if music really can soothe beasts, there is a quietude and benevolence that drifts off the stage and between people in attendance.  No talking, no screen habits.  These four peaceful pied-pipers conjure something cleansing and holy that meets us in collective higher consciousness. 

In a word: Transcendental. 

Feel this:  No drum set.  No explicit percussion.  Yet all notes from strings and vocals are perfectly timed and entwined around a single microphone.

I saw the quartet perform in person twice—the first time at a summer outdoor festival just before sunset along the shore of Lake Champlain (Vermont) and the second time within a sonically-succinct music venue during dark and icy December.  It was Darlingside’s mastery of focus, intimacy, and gentleness in the rambunctious outdoor setting that lured me back for a practically-guaranteed sacred indoor experience.

The band’s lyrics, most often collaboratively written between all band members, and sung with harmonic precision, are the honey that attracts reflective introverts.  The musical arrangements and compositions of their several albums and EPs are also a group collaborative, with each new release outgrowing the previous.  In person, most members regularly change up instruments, between cello, guitar, banjo, violin, mandolin, bass, and more.  I emphasize: This is a band you must see live to reap the full benefits.

If your only access is through a recording, go ahead and begin with their latest album Extralife on a Sunday morning. 

The intimacy of their craft is well-modeled on stage: the four perform around one same microphone for every number, reminiscent of the 1930’s and 40’s.  (Multiple tracks, thus separating musicians physically, began in the 1950’s.)  The band’s pacifying 4-part harmonies are reminiscent of the gentle seriousness and soul-searching of 1960’s folk.  And yet their lyrics are a marriage of timeless emotion and introspective questioning of the mind, at times subtly addressing and capturing the quickly-changing, confusing world we live in today.  These guys harvest some of the best musical nuances of the past, while carrying us bravely through the present.

There is a lot going on in the present, yes?  I recommend this band for a sweet taste of the cure.  With these younger folks making such thoughtful, beautiful music, you’ll get a hopeful glance of the future too.