Philly’s City Rain are known for their big-beat electro-pop anthems (cue “The Optimist,” the excellent single from earlier this year). But the new music they’ve been teasing on Facebook from the forthcoming Songs From a High School Dance indicate the new LP might be more dynamic than we might expect. The duo of Ben Runyan (vocals, production) and Scott Crumpstone (guitars) took a late autumn trip to the beach in Avalon this week to finish tracking, and the snippets they shared included a minute and a half of reverbed doo-wop (a sketch of a song since taken down) and the full new cut called “Mama I Want To Go Home.”
I’m used to hitting play on a City Rain soundcloud link and hearing a lush synthesizer bloom, a slamming kick pulse, a hollering vocal from Runyan, the City Rain format that I’ve come to know and dig. So when this one opened with an acoustic strum – something out of Radiohead’s The Bends – and a sensitive and hushed falsetto, I was taken aback.
As the single builds, we hear piano chords and keyboard beeps – eventually being led along with a gently swaying drumbeat – but none of the in-your-face volume and energy of the past. But there’s no lack of intensity either. Runyan calls it “Folk Rain.” I call it an impressive display of sonic restraint, and a great development for their sound. City Rain headlines The Transfer Station – a new arts space in Manauynk – tonight at 8 p.m. with Former Belle; more info at the show’s Facebook event page.