It’s always weird when a songwriter appears from out of nowhere to enter your consciousness and win you over immediately. Even weirder is when that same songwriter disappears just as quickly, leaving only a few completed tracks and a handful of demos in his wake. Such was my experience with Adam Arcuragi, a young artist from Philadelphia whose approach to standard singer-songwriter fare is impossibly refreshing.
Arcuragi made a small splash in his native Philadelphia when he released a very promising split-EP with the band Audible. Then he proceeded to take almost four years to work on his self-titled debut full-length with an endless list of local musicians in assorted recording environments. And although the less-than-ideal recording conditions make the album seem scattered at times, it was entirely worth the wait.
It’s a fairly quiet record that will no doubt draw comparisons to Nick Drake and other such troubadours. There’s something uncomfortably intimate about the way Arcuragi, an award-winning playwright, delivers his lyrics. He comes across as innocent and yet hyper-aware of his surroundings, as someone who has a healthy if sometimes troubling fascination with love, death and the freeing power of music. Admirably, he addresses these topics without ever seeming overwrought. His composure and taste in accompaniment is top-notch, looking only to light drumming, sparse electric guitar and a steady organ for support. Arcuragi illustrates an important point about dynamics in music too: by keeping things fairly laid back most of the time, it becomes that much more affecting when he does loosen the reins on his deceivingly strong voice. ‘The Screen (Philadelphia)’ is a perfect example. At over six minutes in length, it’s a brilliant exercise in restraint, bursting at the seams with a nervous desperation that’s only indulged briefly. It would be one thing if I could tell you that this is the kind of shit he was figuring out between releases, but the version included here is the exact one I heard a few years ago. Arcuragi innately understands these things, and we should be glad he’s finally decided to share them with all of us.