Pearl And The Beard-Killing The Darlings

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Pearl and The Beard is a group that was brought to my attention a few weeks ago. They will be headlining a show tomorrow night in Evanston at SPACE. This stop is part of a cross-country tour with top-billing before they go out and open for the likes of better known Ingrid Michaelson and even better known Ani DiFranco. I’ve been listening to the album I was sent, and in my opinion Pearl and The Beard should be billed above either of those very well-respected ladies.

The bespectacled trio hails from Brooklyn, New York, though I don’t believe that’s the hometown of any member. Their sound is one that I’ve heard a lot of lately. If you’ll remember my fondness for Chicago’s own Dastardly, as well as fellow New Yorkers Sons Of An Illustrious Father, then you already have a good idea of what you’re in for. Pearl and The Beard steep themselves in traditional folk music, and add contemporary flair to entice young music lovers to give it a try. They do it very well, and with only three members the group creates a lot of sound. Using “three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums, one accordion, ninety-six teeth, and one soul,” they create a sound so full and joyful that you’d think it was the Polyphonic Spree.

Killing The Darlings is almost a year old already, and there’s actually a newer release called Prodigal Daughter. That one is an EP with a single off of the full-length and three solo songs, one by each member of the band. I haven’t had the time to sit down and listen to those newer tracks yet, but if they are anything like this album I would recommend it.

What I like about Killing The Darlings is that there is a real pop sensibility behind it. Most of the album sounds very old school and true to the genre, but then there are moments where you’d think you were listening to current Top 40 hits. The best example of this is the sixth track off the record, led by Jeremy Styles. “Jasper Christmas” has a driving acoustic guitar and percussion that instantly reminded me of the song “Animal” by Neon Trees (in truth it’s nothing like that song, but it’s what I thought of). Other tracks like “Douglas Douglas” and “Sweetness” also are imbued with the almost dance-y nature of “Jasper Christmas.”

As well as they do the fun, Pearl and The Beard also do heartbreaking ballads with beauty and grace. On “The Lament Of Coronado Brown” the band brings in a dark tone that doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the record. This jarring sonic change adds to the power of the song. With vocals led, I think, by Emily Hope Price, and combining cello, xylophone, guitar and percussion this song is at once stark and full at the same time. It begins with the line “They don’t know that I love you,” and that line is repeated throughout the song, often in sweet three-part harmony.

Killing The Darlings is a great introduction to a band that obviously loves what they’re doing. Their music has a timeless quality, in part because the groups knowledge of the style they perform is immense. They know exactly how to do everything they can think of, which makes them an unstoppable force, musically. The music is spiritual at times, which all music in this genre can be. As someone who isn’t religious at all, I find the songs surprisingly compelling. I would definitely recommend checking out this record, as well as the new EP which is available now.

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