On Everything Is Alive, Darlingside explores the human condition, and especially the collision with impermanence so many of us experience. On these songs, they sing of one of life’s only constants, change, but also the unease it can cause, offering no answers but naming the difficulties that come with it.
The music bridges tension across the songs, but the playing is not so tight that it doesn’t flex, instead allowing each member of the band — Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner, and David Senft — to showcase both their playing as well as their voices. Each voice having a turn in the spotlight marks the greatest departure from previous Darlingside records, on which they twined together their voices almost into one. On Everything Is Alive, they very nearly alternate from song to song. It lends the songs a different kind of intimacy, almost as though the backing vocalists for a particular track are supporting as friends instead of collaborating. It provides a setting for greater vulnerability than the band has explored before.
Despite these differences, it still plays like a Darlingside record, governed by an air of collaboration. The band has retained its predisposition toward complex melodies and rhythms (the latter especially recognizable on the notable “Baking Soda”), the always-expected-and-welcome harmonies (such as on “How Long Again”), and the moments of swelling revelation that define its music, buoyed by strings and those harmonies.
Thematically, Everything Is Alive treads a thorny terrain, exploring the disorienting complexities of experiencing change, the challenges of stasis (and even hope for change), and ultimately how we navigate existing in our modern world. On “Darkening Hour”, they ruminate on what was, singing, “it was easy then / there was time to burn and clear it all out,” implying that their lives and world have changed into something uneasy or difficult. On “Lose the Keys,” they add, “it’s the losing that counts / isn’t it?”, and throughout they continue to explore the pains of maturation.
On the other side of the continuum, they sing, “when, dear god, will I be free of this stasis and grief?”, a sort of acknowledgement that being stuck always precedes change, and that though the coming change will likely hurt, it’s necessary.
And yet, Everything Is Alive is ultimately a celebratory album. They notice the small things — with especially great success on the hypnotic “Green Light” — and use vivid images to make sure the listener notices with them (“sky is always hanging blue,” “when up in the clouds are sea dogs / and kites and big white basketballs”). They draw the album title, which is both an observation and a declaration, from “Sea Dogs”, but in the song itself, they phrase it instead as a question, “how is it everything / everything is alive?”
The layers, nuance, and multiple meanings of Darlingside’s lyrics define Everything Is Alive every bit as much as their harmonies, lush sonic world, and complex rhythms do. With this record, they’ve created something both uniquely Darlingside and altogether new.
Darlingside’s Everything Is Alive is out July 28 via Thirty Tigers.