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Adam Arcuragi

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Album Review

The debut full-length from Philadelphia singer/songwriter Adam Arcuragi is the sonic cousin to the melancholic folk of Nick Drake and current sepia-tinged fellow travelers like Mark Kozelek, Damien Jurado, acoustic Chris Mills, and Dolorean. Like the latter's debut, Not Exotic, it's predominantly gentle, minor key acoustics and literate narratives that veil a vaguely religious undertow. On Arcuragi's softer cuts, he employs a whisper uncannily like Kozelek's; when the songs increase tempo and the finger-picking turns to hearty strumming, Arcuragi's voice develops an adenoidal pinch much like early Jurado. What often distinguish these songs are the accents: disc opener "All the Bells" features sumptuous vibraphone chimes from Michael Spinka; lap steel from Ryan McClaughlin and graceful cello from Eve Miller (Rachel's) frame the country shuffle "Delicate"; and Wurlitzer (Charlie Hall, Windsor for the Derby) highlights "Little Yellow Boat." Elsewhere, singing saw and E-Bowed guitars flesh out the compositions. But Arcuragi's songs are strong enough to stand on their own merits; over half of them surpass five minutes, yet none feel too long. "Part of the Sky" and "The Dog Is Dead, Amen" are transcendent, recalling the sparse glory of Drake's Pink Moon, just Arcuragi's wraith-like vocals and intricate acoustic finger-picking, while "Broken Throat" soars like the best Mills on the strength of enthusiastic handclaps and backing harmonies. The accompanying press lists Arcuragi as a prize-winning poet, which partially explains Rimbaud's cameo in "1981" or the arcane "odalisque" that appears in "Part of the Sky." But the intimate narratives about transitory childhood memories, young love lost, and mortality virtually preclude pretension. There is unbridled joy inherent in even the saddest of these songs, and unforgettable images in almost every verse. When Arcuragi sings, "I'd taut myself like the high E-string/So that when you pluck, I sing" ("The Christmas Song"), "I will shake the boughs 'til you come down/Sending the birds into the air like black fire against the sun" ("Broken Throat"), or "Singing through my teeth/And smiling as I go" ("1981"), his elation is contagious. An impressive debut from a promising talent.

Customer Reviews

Great great stuff

This guy is really quite talented. I would try and say who he sounds like but Adam has such a unique voice all his own. That mixed with his writing ability really make for a great overall album. I'm really hoping to catch him touring somewhere nearby.

The latest Philadelphia neofolk artist is one of the best.

The latest Philadelphia singer-songwriter. Adam Arcuragi's eponymous debut via High Two is a singer-songwriting epic that pulls together the emotional abstract of Nick Drake, the simple yet intricate dream-like songwriting of fellow Philadelphia folk artist Denison Witmer, and the raw truth of a John Darnielle-penned tune, and throws it into the melting pot. In this album, Arcuragi has somehow managed to lend a hand to alt-country and single-handedly pull it into the realm of neofolk, which so many artists try but fail to do. Arcuragi's pedigree can be traced from The Rachel’s cellist Eve Miller to Christian praise artist Charlie Hall, and in the middle somewhere there’s collaboration between Arcuragi and New York indie-poppers Matt Pond PA called “Don’t Believe Anything You Read”, but that’s another story. What Arcuragi brings to the table in this album is not just a unique storytelling sense, as evidenced in “1981” and “Part of the Sky”, but also a struggle such as that in “The Song The Summer Sings” that identifies with the listener as not heart-wrenching, but enough to make the listener feel like he’s in the shoes of a distrusting member of a broken relationship in lines such as “It’s just the water on my eyes/Keeping me up/All night”, and “Lock myself down tight again”. For a debut songwriter from Philadelpia, which as of late has been an unlikely haven for singer-songwriters from the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region and refugees from the crowded scene of New York City, this album is the refreshing glass of lemonade on an August day for someone who has been drinking Kool-Aid since June. With influences as diverse as alt-country, gospel, neofolk, and jazz, Arcuragi looks to become a major player in the barebones acoustic genre that desperately needs a punch in the gut. Arcuragi is this punch.

1981 Will Lift and Crush You

The album is a genuine treat indeed, but the second track (1981) is maybe the prettiest song that i've heard in over a year. I absolutely adore every second of it and can only imagine others will do the same. Unless of course, they have feces in their brain holes.

Adam Arcuragi, Adam Arcuragi
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Customer Ratings