It’s hard to believe that Harmony Woods hasn’t even been a going concern for a year, and yet they’re ready to make a huge impact on the Philly music community. The project of singer-guitarist Sofia Verbilla went from knocking us out at basement shows in the fall to the announcement this spring of Nothing Special, the band’s debut long-player set for release on May 5th via Honest Face Records.
In addition to possessing a classically awesome voice that totally slays in an indie rock setting but could also slay in a pop sense given the chance, Verbilla is a gifted scene-setter and storyteller, and the attention to narrative detail all across the record reminds me a lot of Death Cab For Cutie’s The Photo Album — particularly on “Jenkintown-Wyncote,” Nothing Special‘s first single, which made its way into the world back on April 1st.
A brisk drumbeat and ebullient guitar guide a very poppy song that is actually about nerves and anxiety, particularly as they relate to SEPTA; it begins at the titular regional rail station that all tracks in the northeast lead to, and follows our narrator on a disquieting trainride downtown: “Trees pass by as the windows shake / the breaks squeaking without fail.” Being taken out of your comfort zone is never an easy feeling, but Verbilla finds comfort in the destination, a companion who makes the ordeal worthwhile.
If “Jenkintown-Wyncote” is the inviting entrance to the journey of Nothing Special, “Renovations” is its emotional low, delivered in rock and roll catharsis.
Beginning subdued and introspective, the song uses an unkempt house as a metaphor for a relationship that’s turned toxic, and a narrator that realizes the need for self-care: “I tried to build a home in you,” Verbilla sings, “but the foundation was overlooked.” The first time through refrain, it’s delivered in an uncertain and subdued tone — second time around, it’s explosive and empowered.
Suffice it to say, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg on this record, and Verbilla worked with some great people to bring her vision to life. Along with drums by Jeremy Berkin (late of Plainview) and bass by Sophy Kelsall, the record features lead guitar by Brendan Lukens and production from Jake Ewald, both of Modern Baseball. You might have heard of them.
Pre-orders for Nothing Special are available now via Honest Face Records and plans for a record release party are in the works — as is a long-form feature on Harmony Woods, which you should look for on The Key a little closer to the release of the record. Below, watch the band perform a live version of “Jenkintown-Wyncote” for Honest Face Sessions.
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