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Chris Church - Darling Please (Big Stir)

9 May 2022

Back in the eighties and nineties, North Carolina was a hot bed of catchy, alternative guitar pop – the kind that finds that elusive but satisfying balance between melodic muscle and heartfelt sincerity. Singer/songwriter Chris Church is a veteran of those days, with a couple of Clinton-era solo albums and some scattered bits with short-lived bands. He’s been much more prolific since the turn of the millennium – so much so that he could record an album in 2011, decide against releasing it due to displeasure with the sound, and still have plenty of material to soldier on.

Church made Darling Please alone in his basement following the death of his beloved brother and bandmate Mike, a terrible occurrence that drenches the songs in bruised emotion, whether or not they directly address the situation. That’s not the only thing that saturates this record, however, as Church hangs melancholy melodies and sweet harmonies (contributed in part by Lindsay Murray of Gretchen’s Wheel during the remix that brought the recordings up to code) on a thick latticework of distorted guitars. Sitting somewhere between shoegaze, Crazy Horse and the heavier side of the Posies, incredible tunes like “Pillar to Post,” “I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry,” “Never So Far Away” and the utterly brilliant “Bad Summer” celebrate the sensual pleasure of filtering bittersweet honey through overdriven amps to dig hope out of the loam of tragedy. As likely to inspire wistful reverie as head-nodding air guitar, Darling Please is the kind of record that makes you immediately research the artist’s back catalog, knowing there are gems a-plenty awaiting discovery.