Philadelphia, when viewed through the lens of someone on the cusp of adulthood, is a giant creative playground. There's always something buzzing from the amps in a row home basement, another voice waiting to be unleashed from its shell. Harmony Woods – the moniker of Philly's own Sofia Verbilla – offers a parallel perspective on her debut LP, Nothing Special: a lens into the scenes behind her home's creative spaces and the relationships that fuel them.
With Modern Baseball's Jake Ewald behind the boards, one could be quick to loop Harmony Woods in with the Philly band's hyperfocused storytelling. Verbilla does take cues from Ewald's notes from the midnight scenes at Drexel University, but adapts the playbook to create a more literary angle. Songs about red cups and frat boys nursing kegs spill into one another without pauses, like a self-conscious beer-sloshing at a basement party. Sofia's steady register anchors the madness, while four short bursts of contemplation - labeled "vignettes" in the track listing - measure the pace of emotional fever. Verbilla does her own milemarking, too, where "Jenkintown-Wyncote" closes distance between two people with steady guitar percolation and regional rail, only for "Parking Lot" to warm with anxious closeness and explode under the pressure of rattling notes which wander away as fast as they're welcomed. The richness and power of the instrumentals spiraling beneath Sofia's bell-like vocals can be best distilled in a line repeated through Nothing Special like a wide-eyed mission statement: "I think I might need you." Harmony Woods is as much about the parts as it is the whole, a unit built and bred by the lesser-known landmarks it charts.
Part concept album and part meditation on the human spectrum of love – through mental hurdles, interpersonal health, and beyond –Nothing Special knows what it wants to be and where it best thrives: while looking inward, outwardly.
- James Cassar
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