Photo Credit: Jason Sanchez

Music Review | Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin Deliver a Dazzling Split EP

Two Brooklyn-based bands, Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin, hooked up to record a four-track self-titled split EP, slated to drop May 4. Karl’s influences include Prince, Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Townes Van Zandt, while Darlin Darlin, led by Joanie Leon Guerrero and Brett Parnell, sounds like a hybrid of Dolly Parton and Nick Cave.

Karl’s tunes, “Shelter” and “Cyndi,” reflect opposite sides of romance: one serious, the other fun. “Shelter” relates a quixotic tale of crumbling love full of fond memories and endearing respect. “Cyndi,” on the other hand, tells the delightful story of how Karl got a kiss from Cyndi Lauper.

Darlin Darlin’s songs, “Easy” and “Katy, TX” emanate country textures, as well as a streamlined unity tumescent with passionate emotional aesthetics.

“Cyndi” starts off with tight guitar riffs with a Springsteen-esque “Fire” aroma flowing into a stylish folk-rock melody, featuring a delicious remotely wailing guitar and Karl’s captivating voice, which exudes a yummy casual timbre. “Shelter” is reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot covering a country hoe-down number by Leon Russell. A drawling steel guitar infuses the tune with an expansive aura, while Karl’s voice takes on a country-rock tinge that’s mellow and creamy.

Photo Credit: Josh Steinbauer

“Easy” rides a persuasive country-rock-folk melody full of bright wavering guitars and a throbbing bassline. A dark color inhabits the harmonics, providing a scrumptious contrast to Leon Guerrero’s gorgeously delicate tones. We love the relentless driving rhythm of this song, which radiates a lustrously wicked fragrance, à la Chris Isaak.

“Katy” features a measured Mississippi-country feel, simmering with sensual energy. Light, tantalizing guitars stream oozing colors, as Leon Guerrero’s graceful voice throws tasty splashes of sonic luminosity over the music. There’s a potently tender aspect to “Katy” that’s sublimely haunting.

All four songs on the split exude an assertive vitality, with contagious melodies and cogent rhythms, as well as luscious vocals from Stephen Karl and Joanie Leon Guerrero. This is a must-listen-to EP.

Follow Darlin Darlin on their website, Facebook, Bandcamp, and Instagram.

Follow Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals on their website, Facebook, and SoundCloud.

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Written by Randy

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.