CD Reviews 15 Nov 2022


2022 (Self-Release)

Michael Darling will celebrate the release of Spark at the High Noon Saloon on Thursday, November 19th. Also appearing are Old Oaks and Bear in the Forest. This is the last show on a nine-stop tour that took Darling across the Midwest and Bible Belt.

Spark will be available here.


As a fairly new face on the Madison music scene, Michael Darling has been causing quite a stir. Local Sounds Magazine recently wrote a piece about his tour and a bit of background. Darling is breath of fresh air with excellent songwriting skills dashed with a hefty sense of humor, especially in his videos which are produced with Jake Viaene (Bard Media). He’s released several of these as well as several singles but Spark is his first collection of songs, written and produced between 2019 and 2021. Pandemic be damned as Darling does nearly everything himself except the mastering.

“Coffee” starts things off, a single put out in September with an accompanying video. It’s a luscious piece of synth pop that’s immediately catchy. The throwback keys and the sparse drums are punctuated by a perky bass line. What’s surprising here is that Darling is so accomplished on guitar as well, playing a great solo. With Darling, everything seems to fit just right and his lyrics are anything but throwaway fare. This one is the wrestle of the artist with the frustration of the day job: “What’s a paycheck worth if we got no time / Just a reason to keep us from chasing rhyme / But the rent gets paid and the bed gets made / Oh I know how it goes but it don’t feel right.”

Along similar lines, “Somebody” is a direct reference to the pandemic: “Count up the wasted moments / Just waiting for the moment / I can finally be somebody…I’ll never fail if I don’t try / Who said I need to go outside? / I’ll clip my wings so I can’t fly / I’ll never fail if I don’t.” The falsetto delivery brings home the sad boy sentiment while the harmonies sweeten it up.

Darling’s just-a-normal-guy looks and his deadpan delivery in his videos are immensely appealing.

“Straight” is easily one of his best songs where he really lets his crooner flag fly. His control, dynamics and phrasing are just exceptional. The lyrics are so intensely personal it’s enough to bring tears. Here is a live version of the song:

The recorded version is even better and the official video is hilarious, in stark contrast to the lyrical content. Watch it here.

“Spark” was released in July with help from Audrey Martinovich at Audio for the Arts who recorded the bass and drum parts. Another great song with some more tasty guitar and a tremendously powerful build. These are not just three-minute singles, either, both “Spark” and “Coffee” clock in at over six minutes, highlighting his talent for song development.

There is one tune on the EP that has not been officially released until now. “Too” is another beautiful piano-based ballad accentuated by ghostly guitar figures. It’s another powerful vocal performance. It was captured for the 2021 Madison Area Music Association Awards, however.

As he states in the video’s intro, he just wants to make his music relatable. Mission accomplished. Since December, Darling has dropped the day job and is devoting himself to music full time. This is one artist you need to see and support. There’s no telling where it could take him.

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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