When Eric Colville is belting out a line in his new song “Remember to Forget,” one of the twelve intriguing entries in his album Philadelphia, there’s just nothing coming between artist and audience. While he’s got an amazing voice on his own, Colville sounds much more complete as an artist when he’s got a brilliant folk/rock backdrop to work with, and this record provides all he needs to sound like a genuine star. He doesn’t hold anything back in “Afraid of Darkness” or “Limbo;” he’s got too much that he wants to get out to his listeners to hide behind elements in his music best used as agents of evocation, and I think a lot of his peers could stand to learn a thing or two from this piece.
Harmonies are always the centerpiece in Philadelphia, but never at the cost of smart lyricism. Just take “Be Alright” and “How Come” for example – while Colville could have gone simple with his lyrics here and made just as much of a strong showing with the hook in both songs, he instead gets deep with his verses and gives up a much more full-bodied performance as a result. He doesn’t want to give us the basics in Philadelphia, but instead the kind of far-reaching performance that doesn’t come from essential repetition and rehearsal – you can’t teach this kind of magic, and anyone who is familiar with listening to the foundational folk/rock of yesteryear is going to know what I mean.
You can purchase Philadelphia here
The narratives in Philadelphia, from those of the title cut and “Song for Will” to “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Be Alright,” and “End of War,” don’t always come together through linguistics exclusively; actually, I think it’s more accurate to say that a lot of the emotional context in this LP comes from the way that Colville interacts with his guitar. They’ve got an amazingly close relationship, and this is exactly the type of material that showcases what he can do with the strings better than most anything else could have. A little raw and a whole lot of electric where it counts the most, Philadelphia is a boundaries-pushing release that doesn’t try to be different than the standard – it just naturally is.
Although I think it would be prudent of him to push even harder with the artistic limits of his music in the next album he records, there’s no disputing the amazing quality of the content that Eric Colville’s Philadelphia is made of. He comes to the audience with a lot to say, but his output never sounds like a big purge – it’s commentary but sourced from the most personal place a singer can draw inspiration from. I’ll be curious to hear what kind of a sound Colville maintains in the future, but if there’s one thing that I can take away from this record above all else, it’s that no matter what kind of a cosmetic setup he’s utilizing, there’s going to be a lot of substance to anything this man pens.