Yesterday, in our review of City Rain‘s Songs From a High School Dance, we talked about how the album saw frontman Ben Runyan finding his voice as a songwriter. A classic way to test that claim out: take away all the bells and whistles and electronic layers of the music, listen to the songs in their most basic, stripped-down format, and consider the results. Do they hold up?
Filmmaker Matthew Albasi did just this over the winter months, bringing Runyan and his City Rain partner Scott Cumpstone into a wooded outdoor path (looks like the Wissahickon Valley Park, but I could be wrong) and had them play two songs with only an acoustic guitar and a boombox to add a bed of tones and beats. You might call the boombox cheating, but it’s only minimally audible, leaving these performances of “The Optimist” and “Mama, I Want To Go Home” to be carried by Cumpstone’s fervent strumming and Runyan’s singing.
A few takeaways – Runyan is a really good singer. Take away the studio reverb and vocal doubling and whatever the heck else makes his voice sound huge on the record, and guess what? It still sounds huge. Cumpstone should consider working an acoustic into City Rain live sets sometime – it adds a nice nuanced touch to the music. And the music and the melody absolutely hold up. Check it out and decide for yourself below. Who knows, maybe there’s still time for City Rain to work an acoustic micro-set into their Thursday album release show at Underground Arts.
Songs for a High School Dance is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the single “Waiting on a Feeling” in Monday’s post, read yesterday’s album review, and check back tomorrow for an interview and Friday for a travelogue.
Last night, power-pop vets Hellogoodbye teamed up with summery locals Vacationer to headline a packed performance at Underground Arts. A lot has changed with Hellogoodbye since their breakout album in 2006, when “Touchdown Turnaround” was the sound track on innumerable summer mix tapes. Since those wasted teenage years the band has released two full lengths, Would it Kill You? on their own label, Wasted Summer, followed by Everything is Debatable in 2013 on Old Friends Records. Philly favorites, Vacationer rounded out the bill delivering their breezy lullabies and synthpop tunes from Gone. The band is currently working on a new album called Relief, to be released in June. The new song, “The Wild Life” has a cool afropop, ‘circle of life’ theme. The Austin, TX band Heavenly Beat opened the show with their buzzing pop vibes. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.
Tonight, M.I.A. graces the Tower Theater stage and fans (old and new) should, as always, expect a little bit of everything from the singer-songwriter’s genre-bending music. On her latest album Matangi, it’s clear that her sound is still a hybrid of electronic, pop, hip-hop and world music. Best known for her 2007 platinum hit “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. isn’t a traditional singer or rapper; she’s crafted a style that’s somewhere in between and it’s infectious. Watch “Y.A.L.A.” below and get tickets here
Local pop bands Weekender and Delco Pacers will hit the Ortlieb’s stage tonight in celebration of their collaborative mixtape, Philly Tapes Philly Volume 2. The first 50 people to the show will receive a free copy of the limited edition cassette. More details here.
Underground Arts hosted a packed crowd on Friday night with headlining act Mac DeMarco, who was touring behind his recently released second LP Salad Days. The laid-back, dreamy album caught the ears of many and it certainly showed as Underground Arts was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. Mac Demarco has a swoonworthy and chill persona – baseball cap on his head and a cigarette in-between his fingers – and he performed a killer set of stoner love songs. With many longtime fans in the audience, folks sang along to the cuts like “Ode to Viceroy” and “Freaking Out in the Neighborhood” from his prior record 2. Opening act Laser Background used a megaphone and dreamy electric melodies to warm up the audience just right. And Juan Wauters had a stellar backdrop of various flags sewn together, incorporated with flickering light bulbs and Christmas lights throughout the entire set. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.
Just in time for sunnier days and (comparatively) warmer temperatures, Vacationer has returned with a brand new single called “The Wild Life.” In the insatiably catchy and polyrhythmic track, frontman Kenny Vasoli sings about “starting to change, being less guarded and act like I’ve got it, I’m putting my heart in just to give it away.” Sounds like a positive foot to start out a new album on - Relief is due out June 24th via Downtown Records, preorders are available here, and if this track is anything to go by, it’s more of the the band’s breezy beat-oriented pop nuggets in the vein of Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot. Listen to “The Wild Life” below, and see Vacationer live at Underground Arts with Hellogoodbye on April 24th; tickets and information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
Before there was Pure Phase, before there was Screamadelica, there was Loop. The short-lived UK four-piece blended nervy electronic rhythms and towering psychedelic arrangements in a similar manner as Spiritualized and Primal Scream, but disbanded before those artists really took off. Reunited in 2013, Loop is taking a pass through the U.S. this spring and headlining Kung Fu Necktie tonight; get tickets and information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar, and watch a video for their cover of Suicide’s “Rocket U.S.A” from the 1987 album The World In Your Eyes below.
Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rossen played a solo, seated show at Underground Arts on Monday. Best known for his work with Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles, this is his first ever solo tour. Rossen released his debut EP Silent Hour/Golden Mile in 2012. Rossen’s intimate performance included a mix of songs off his EP and older, unreleased songs. Jokingly referring to the venue’s set up feeling a bit like an open mic night, Rossen played a cover of Judee Sill’s “Waterfall” requested by someone in the audience. Rossen closed the show playing banjo to his song “Balmy Night,” leaving the stage to a long and loud round of applause and cheering.
Nashville-based guitarist William Tyler opened the show playing a collection of songs off his 2013 LP Impossible Truth. Playing a set of emotionally charged instrumental music, Tyler entranced the crowd with his multi-layered guitar arrangements. Check out a photo recap of the show below.
UK trip-hop trio London Grammar returned to Underground Arts on Saturday night as part of their North American tour. Playing a sold-out show, lead singer Hannah Reid captivated the crowd with her soaring, yet intimate vocals. Backed by Dot Major on keyboards, djembe, and drums and Dan Rothman on guitar, the band played a mesmerizing 10-song set of sparse and ethereal electronic pop off their debut album If You Wait and Metal & Dust EP. Brooklyn indie pop group Haerts opened the show playing a synth-pop set including songs from their 2013 EP Hemiplegia. Check out the set list and a photo recap of the show below.
He may be best known as one-fourth of Grizzly Bear, but tonight Daniel Rossen will bask in the solo spotlight at Underground Arts. Rossen released his first solo EP Silent Hour/Golden Mile in 2012, which showcased his attention to mood, atmosphere and honest lyricism. Listen to “Silent Song” below and get tickets here.