There's a ton of beauty in Darlingside's melodies. There's so much autumnal melancholy in there too, that when slivers of joy happen to slip through the strings and vocals it's almost unwelcome. That's crazy sounding, we know, but it's that same quality that made, say, Simon and Garfunkel or Nick Drake so incredible and timeless. So, yeah, this Massachusetts foursome is gifted. They're also deceptively literate, disarmingly gentle and wickedly powerful, and their songs show a deeply knowledgeable connection between what's old and what's new—from classical to folk to indie to pop to rock to bluegrass, but they never sound tedious, or, worse, ironic and retro. Simply calling them folk-pop or string-rock is a disservice; their voices, banjos, violins, cellos, drums, organs and guitars lift into something much more than that. They even made the Smashing Pumpkins' overrated crusty "1979" sound graceful. Their two albums and EPs stun, so it's no wonder The New Yorker, NPR and Rolling Stone all hail Darlingside. Here multi-instrumentalist (cello, guitar, organ, mandolin, ehru etc.) Harris Paseltiner picks the top six albums that changed his life. With Frances Luke Accord, Sunday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. Club Congress, 311 E. Congress. $12-$14. 21+.
1. The Beatles—Revolver: The final track—oh my god—the final track! The final track! (And all of the others, too).
2. Jeff Buckley—Grace: Listened to this album in my car almost daily when I moved to Northampton, Mass. on the Connecticut River after school (seven years later it still has a permanent spot in my car CD-changer). The album moves unabashedly through grunge rock, jazz, old English ballads, folk, gospel, and post-rock, and somehow it all hangs tight. I love having to ride the volume knob because one second it's too quiet to hear and then the next second it's blowing my face off.
3. Radiohead—In Rainbows: I was studying in Oxford, England when Radiohead shattered the music industry with the "pay-what-you-want" album. I sprung for the full vinyl package and set aside a dedicated "first-listen" afternoon where I cleaned my room, set out a bottle of wine, and got the lighting just right for myself before popping on headphones. Despite the huge buildup, the album more than delivered. At the end of Track five, "All I Need," I might've been laughing and crying at the same time.
4. Nick Drake—Pink Moon: My older brother showed me Nick Drake when I was entering high school (to this day we're still constantly swapping music, but at that point the knowledge definitely flowed from the top down). On this album Drake is so quiet, elegant, and fragile—made me realize that often less is more. The songs themselves are so complete that they don't require layers of goop. (See song three: "Road")
5. James Taylor—Mudslide Slim: My parents got me and my siblings listening to JT at an early age ("Blossom" from his first album was a go-to lullaby). I've listened to this particular record more than any other. There's art you want to look at in a museum, and then there's art you want to hang up on the wall at home—this is the latter for me. (See track 7: "Hey Mister That's Me Up On the Jukebox.")
6. Traveling Wilburys—Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1: My earliest memories of listening to music are hearing this cassette tape on family van trips from Chicago to Galena, Illinois to go skiing. I subsequently fell in love with poppy melodies and groups of guys singing in harmony.