Let’s get something out of the way. Darling Valley is, for all intents and purposes, Accents with a new name. That would make this LP3. Three of the four people in this band were present on the last Accents record, and there is a shared sensibility. But, let’s not dwell on the past. In fact, y’know, let’s just skip the comparisons to the older records they released as Accents. Let’s start fresh.
Darling Valley may be one of the only bands playing this kind of music that doesn’t bore me after more than a few songs. We live in a post-Decemberists world. There is no shortage of people throwing mandolins, banjos, and whatever else into their indie folk stew. It takes a lot to be engaging, and even more to be good. Crooked Orchards is as fine of a full length as any band could hope to make. The band is built around the quartet of TJ Foster, Lauren Foster, Jordan Stewart, and Ashleigh Whitfield. Like any good band, they are definitely more than a sum of their parts.
The sound of Darling Valley is rooted in folk and country. More than that, they are shining examples of Americana and roots music. They know how to work indie rock and pop influences without letting that overtake the rhythm. The songs are meticulously crafted, and exist in the little details. An example would be like how the little trumpet flourishes on “Who You Hold On To” play beautifully off the otherwise straight country vibe. The great depth the vocal melodies on “You’ll Go Far, Kid” add is another.
Crooked Orchards is a wonderfully written album with a ton a heart. The lyrical themes are what you might expect. There is love, both lost and found. There are references to literature and war. There is celebration, and there is mourning. Folk music is full of those themes. They are familiar and relatable. And, when done well, they are engaging and meaningful.
Sounds And Tones Records
I always think that indie rock gets a bad rap. In both underground music and mainstream culture. So much of it has been designated as music for hipsters in wayfarers who dress like they live in the dust bowl with ironic moustaches. It does a disservice to the bands who make the music. There is still a lot of genuineness in the genre. No matter what the jaded music fans say. There is also still a lot of life in the genre. There are countless bands and records to prove it. Russell And The Wolf Choir represent that. The Ivy Leaf Agreement is an EP that, while hitting a lot of the genre’s touchpoints, has a lot to like.
The Ivy Leaf Agreement is an EP that falls under the umbrella of indie rock, but there are also twinges of other influences. There is some country, there is some pop, and it generally hits all the right spots when it comes to existing in that style. It might not be terribly groundbreaking, but it is enjoyable. The biggest “sounds like” I can think of would be Kevin Devine or On A Wire era Get Up Kids. Especially on a song like “This Fall I Think That You’re Riding For.” It has a driving rhythm behind it, but a very distinct country vibe to it as well. That same kind of indie/country shows up on most of the songs. The inclusion of lap steel really makes everything stand out to me.
It’s really an EP that presents the total package. The songwriting is genuine and earnest. It’s down to earth, it simple. There are no shortage of bands writing obtuse bullshit, and it’s great to see something else. These are great songs about love and loss. Like, “The Evening Wore On Part 1” tells a very concise story of a changing relationship. One of drifting apart from someone you were close to, but still desperately wanting them. All filtered through getting drunk at a party.
Everything builds perfectly to the closing song, “Ivy Leaf Agreement.” At almost eight and a half minutes, it captures everything that is great about this EP. Delicate guitars, excellent songwriting, and a general sense of purpose. It’s finding something meaningful in everyday minutiae that makes this record comfortable and engaging. Russell And The Wolf Choir have crafted a great record from front to back.
Russell And The Wolf Choir
Hearts & Stars Records