Duos seem to be in fashion these days. From Capital Kings and The Sonflowerz, to All Sons and Daughters, Love and the Outcome, Jenny and Tyler and Gungor; we have been given some great songs from all of these artists within the past few years, each of them unveiling melodies that speak to the heart of the individual about identity, hope and encouragement through Christ. Enter in another new duo, City Harbor. Since their signing to Sparrow Records in 2012 (and their hit single ‘Somebody Tell Them’), the departure of founding member Josh Varnadore and the addition of newest member Robby Earle; lead singer and surviving member Molly Reed (wife of Mike Grayson from mikeschair) has been able to forge on and give us 4 songs in the band’s first EP release, titled ‘Come However You Are’. With the song being the first single from the album, as well as a bonus track bolter for WOW Hits 2014; both Molly and Robby have presented four tracks of an acoustic/pop nature in a similar musical style to Rend Collective Experiment or The Sonflowerz. Come However You Are EP is a joy to listen to, and one of my favourite EP’s of the year so far- and while I’m still not sure if they rerecorded the track ‘Somebody Tell Them’ to omit Josh’s vocals (or maybe they wanted to pay homage and respect to Josh, because both versions sound very similar), each of the songs still do their job in uplifting those who hear it. With this EP a pre-cursor into what to expect on their full-length album in February 2014; City Harbor is a band to explore and listen to if you’re a fan of duos in general, or if you like acoustic pop, and artists like The Sonflowerz, Francesca Battistelli or Rend Collective Experiment.
One of my favourite songs this year, ‘Come However You Are’ deservingly fits on WOW Hits 2014, even though at the time of the track list coming out, I hadn’t heard of the song before. Starting off the track with some acoustic guitar riffs and some ‘oohhh’ vocal moments that remind me of something artists like Francesca or Nichole Nordeman would do; Molly opens up and provides a vulnerable moment straight from the first verse, with Molly declaring ‘…to anyone walking down a hard road, worn out with blisters on their feet, to anyone with a heart that’s shattered, doing their best to hold it together, with no prayer to pray, and no song left to sing…’ Songs are for everyone, and even more with uplifting ones, songs are meant for the broken and weary, to lift them up. ‘Come However You Are’ is one of these songs, giving us the peace and hope that God is searching for us, as we are, rather than as we ought to be. Our surrender to Him ought to be because of His love for us, rather than out of a measure system of what we need to say or accomplish for us to be right with our Father. With hand claps, guitars and great harmonisation between Molly and Robby, ‘Come However You Are’ delivers a well-balanced lyrically focused, yet equally musically captivating, song, and certainly one of my favourite songs of the year, alongside others like ‘We Won’t Be Shaken’ (Building 429), ‘Lighthouse’ (Philippa Hanna), ‘We Believe’ (Newsboys), ‘Oceans’ (Hillsong UNITED) and ‘Carry Me’ (Josh Wilson).
Throughout the rest of the EP (3 tracks), Molly and Robbie trade quite well between leading sections of songs and being the vocal in the background as each of the melodies after ‘Come However You Are’ affirm and build up the message of the first song, and what the EP longs to say in general. Originally recorded with original member Josh Varnadore (and to my suspicion not recorded again), ‘Somebody Tell Them’ delivers a powerful and refreshingly hopeful moment of realisation as the melody brings out the vulnerability, not just in Molly’s voice, but also as the song progresses, showing the importance and necessity of us sharing the gospel. The urgency of how the band declare, specifically to us Christians, to ‘…tell them that the lost are saved, somebody tell them that their debt’s been paid, and let them know, love is calling out their name…’; we are able to hopefully place this calling into action. One of my favourite songs that released in 2012, both ‘Somebody Tell Them’ and ‘Come However You Are’ anchor the EP and show us why this band is one of the artists high on my list as one to watch over this next year or so (alongside Love and the Outcome, Everfound and 1 Girl Nation).
With the band also giving us a slow keyboard prominent melody ‘Closer to You’, complete with looping percussion and the theme of how God’s love is pursuing us closer to Him, and how ‘…You’ve waited a long time standing by my side when I deserved for You to leave…’; as well as the acoustic upbeat pop infused song with light notes of glockenspiel as the band invites us into a message of us lifting up everything we have, the good the bad and even the things we seemingly think we can struggle through on our own; I myself am able to connect with ‘Lift It Up’, an almost 3 minute song giving listeners (at least myself) a realisation that God has been faithful- ‘…how many times God have You been faithful? I know You’re right here, I know You’re able, You’ve got a plan, God, Your timing’s perfect, even in the darkness, I know You’re working…’ Musically reminding me of Building 429’s ‘Press On (Wrecking Ball)’, both Molly and Robbie have delivered a near flawless EP that continually gives myself at least the expectation and anticipation for their full-length album in February 2014!
Overall: City Harbor’s debut EP is something that every CCM fan (as well as people who love acoustics and worship) should listen to. With heartfelt moments of hope and encouragement, and Molly’s vocals reminding me so much of artists like Love and the Outcome, Natalie Grant or Francesca Battistelli (a good thing and a great compliment), the duo will certainly have a bright future at Sparrow Records, home of other artists like Matthew West, Sanctus Real, Britt Nicole and Mandisa. As the band state on their website, of how ‘…when we see hurting people, struggling loved ones, and injustice in the world we’re always thinking somebody’s gotta do something but inside we know it has to start with us…’, this EP certainly does the job in convicting and hopefully causing action and being the catalyst for inward and outward change in the community. One of my favourite EP’s of the year, City Harbor is a unique band to keep on your radar for months and possibly even years to come. Well done guys for such a powerful and compelling album.