With a smoky voice to lead the way, Eric Colville’s “Song for Will” comes together all too flawlessly, like a portrait being painted before our very eyes. There’s a lot of seamless expression in Colville’s new album Philadelphia, and you don’t have to look very deep in the tracklist to find some of the best gems the LP contains. From the brittle tone of “Limbo” to the straightforwardness of “End of War,” Philadelphia can be an at times unpredictable but constantly intriguing listen, and it centers entirely on the soulfulness of its singer/songwriter, whom I think deserves a lot more credit than he’s received thus far.
Tension helps to make the lyrical point all the sharper in tracks like the aforementioned “End of War” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” and I like the way that Colville generally exploits his compositional construction to make the mood of the music even stronger. There’s no avenue he isn’t willing to travel when it comes to making a sterling narrative in Philadelphia, and if you’re curious what I’m talking about, I recommend exploring the detailed sounds of “The Dash,” “Angel,” and the title track to better understand what I mean.
Colorful harmonies are at the heart of “Remember to Forget,” “Be Alright,” “35 & Thinking,” and “Afraid to Dance,” and they’re not dripping with a lot of production polish, either. Instead, there’s not a doubt in my mind that everything we’re listening to in Philadelphia would sound as amazing in a live setting as it does here, which says a lot about how seriously this artist takes clarity of sound when he gets into the studio. That’s a rare attribute to come across any more, but one that I think he has the potential to ride right into the primetime spotlight atop.
The tempo of “Song for Will” and “Be Alright” is more or less the key to both songs feeling as immersive as they do, but I also think that Colville could experiment with them on stage and find just as powerful a response from the audience as this record is likely to receive as a whole. Philadelphia, much like the city it’s been named for, has many different layers you’ve got to peel back across the dozen songs it contains, and something in my gut tells me that these layers would be even more captivating if unpeeled in an improvisational, freeform kind of a format.
All-around one of the most diversely-appointed indie singer/songwriter efforts I’ve reviewed in the past six months, Eric Colville’s Philadelphia is required listening if you’re a fan of the modern folk-rock revolution and everything it has the potential to unleash in society. Colville plays it cool, but he’s got to be aware of how brooding a voice he’s really got – when paired with the guitar in this LP, it feels like we’re listening to something from a true superstar rather than another indie troubadour trying to make a name for himself in the contemporary bohemian rock scene. I dig this direction, and I hope he stays with it.
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