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ECSTATIC STEREO EMBERS SINGLE/VIDEO PREMIERE – “This This Called We” from Philadelphia’s Northern Arms

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Whereas, for writers, the shame of repeating ourselves, be it in poetry prose or critical appraisal, is meant to prevent us from doing so, the task is sometimes made impossible by the sheer consistency of excellence with which one is confronted. I mean, as a writer critically engaged with the arts, imagine having to come up with still another superlative for Eric Dolphy or Mary Oliver or Dylan with the Band in 1966, a challenge nearly as herculean as the talent of the subjects being addressed. Yet here I find myself, swimming in that very quandary as I am once again (joyously) faced with the prospect of bringing our readers to the overflowing well of hurt and yearning, of human desire made manifest in all its tattered stubbornness and drive, that is the music of Northern Arms. Given that when first introduced to the band back in 2014 via the single “What You’ve Got On” I was so completely floored I almost never got back up, then further given my similar reaction upon the arrival of their debut album a year later, to find myself back at said well, the winds of regret and redemption again swirling about my ears with an almost reckless grace, is, in the best way imaginable, almost too much to take. But seeing as at this very moment their new single “This Thing Called We” – its horns sending shivers up the back of my neck as if from the breath of a sweet avenging angel, its bassline sneaking through the mix quietly upping the stakes and bringing still more chills, Keith Peirce’s vocals an aching reverie of soul and sorrow as it throws both pleading and resignation into the forge – seeing as that is on constant repeat in the headphones right now, somehow managing to sound stronger every fucking time, it’s apparent that not only is it not ‘too much to take’ but, rather, something I’ll need to hear on the regular for the foreseeable future. And if that makes it sound akin to addiction then so be it, I’m hooked. What the hell else is new.

With, as before, a generous assist from an array of players both veterans to the NA cause and newcomers – see the list of credits beneath the vid and thank each one of them with a hush of appreciation – and co-produced to the nth degree of sublime with Mike Kennedy, “This Thing Called We” finds us once more inside a sound so redolent of that unique Northern Arms air, wherein grace, humility, and a soaring beauty conspire to overtake our hearts, that surrender ends up our only option. And perhaps that’s what’s most surprising here. The very fact that that bell could be struck again without breaking it, that its resoundingness could still stir our hearts to the brink as it did nearly a decade ago, defies every expectation that has been built up over the years as other artists that have so moved us in the past fall heartbreakingly short. Ineffable enough as to be the go-to definition of that word, Northern Arms’ new single is everything we could have hoped for, mortal, elegiac, in its rapture an unleashing of stunning restraint, a turn of phrase that can only be understood by hitting ‘play’ just below.

Meanwhile, quite obviously, that dilemma presented at the outset could not be more pertinent and I look forward without reservation to facing it again, and again, and soon. But, really, whenever is fine, because for this band? I’d wait a thousand years.

This Thing Called We (The Players)

Vocals | Keith Richard Peirce

Piano | Synthesizer | Julia Alford

Acoustic Guitar | Mike Kennedy, Joe Boyle

Electric Guitar | Mike Kennedy

Bass | Justin Hallman

Trumpet | David Kain

Baritone & Alto Saxophone | Michael Tramontana

Drums | Alec Meltzer

Recorded at Fairmount Funeral Sound

Produced by Mike Kennedy and Keith Richard Peirce

Engineered and mixed by Mike Kennedy  

Mastered By Ryan Schwabe

Album Art Design | Branko Jakominich