Review: Pearl and the Beard – Killing the Darlings (2011)

I believe I owe Pearl and the Beard an apology.

A few months back I reviewed a show here in D.C. in which the Brooklyn-based trio opened for the David Wax Museum and gave them a mere passing mention. I arrived late to the show and was distracted through their set.

Now that I’ve been charged with reviewing their new album, Killing the Darlings, I see the error in my ways. It was love at first download. I haven’t been able to turn it off since.

Though this album is not their first – they’ve also released two EPs and an LP to date – Killing the Darlingsprovides a comprehensive introduction to a seriously fun band. The members of Pearl & the Beard are versatile vocalists and instrumentalists capable of adopting any genre they choose. The album touches on folk, jazz, swing and pop without sounding like the band is stretched too thin.

The opening track, “Reverend”, lays a perfect foundation for the album as a whole. It starts out easy, showing off the band’s stellar harmonies. About two-thirds of the way in, the tempo picks up with a tangy banjo riff. It says, “Yes, we sound going to sound pretty here, but we’re going to have a lot of fun too.” And they do.

It should be noted that all three members of Pearl and the Beard are knockout singers on their own, but they sound even better together. There is no lead singer in this band, and it sounds fantastic. In fact, there’s only one track (“Hot Volcano,” a vampy swing number) in which one of them takes the sole lead.

The band’s small size gives them a chance to showcase unique instrumentation as well. There’s no guitar, bass, drums setup here. Pearl and the Beard’s setup includes guitar, glockenspiel, just one drum and a cello. And the cello is what really makes them stand out — not many bands use a classical string instrument as well. “Swimming” and “The Lament of Coronado Brown” both have beautiful cello parts that make the songs even lovelier than they already are.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Douglas Douglass,” another song with a swing feel. It’s a stripped-down tune, featuring only singing and percussion (plus a little horn bit at the end). Not only is this song a mood-booster, but it’s clear that the band is having a blast performing it and that always makes music more fun to listen to.

The band’s small size gives them a chance to showcase unique instrumentation as well. There’s no guitar, bass, drums setup here. Pearl and the Beard’s setup includes guitar, glockenspiel, just one drum and a cello. And the cello is what really makes them stand out — not many bands use a classical string instrument as well. “Swimming” and “The Lament of Coronado Brown” both

So, Pearl and the Beard, mea culpa. Next time you’re in Washington you’ll have my undivided attention.

Pearl and the Beard
Official | iTunes

Rating:8.8/10

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