Songwriter Evan Pharmakis released his debut solo album, Morning Light, under the moniker Wind in Sails on Feb. 24 via Equal Vision Records.
Many people familiar with the post-hardcore scene may best remember Pharmakis as the former guitarist and founding member of the band Vanna. Following his exit from the band, he shifted gears and began writing and performing primarily acoustic music under the Wind in Sails name. After releasing a few EP’s, Pharmakis gained exposure in the scene once again, and proved to listeners he is a masterful songwriter capable of creating instant classics that extend far beyond his post-hardcore roots. Rather than sounding like he is cashing in on his previous reputation as an ex-Vanna member, Pharmakis instead reintroduces himself to a new audience with a captivating, eclectic mix of tracks that depart completely from his former band’s sound.
Morning Light presents audiences with a stripped-down yet driving listening experience that includes elements of alternative rock, indie, and acoustic music. The songs frequently shift dynamic between solo acoustic and full-band in a matter of seconds and always keep listeners guessing what will hit their ears next.
Pharmakis starts the album with the track “Push and Shove.” The song begins with a familiar, strict guitar-and-vocals dynamic before an upbeat drum track enters the mix halfway through. Here, Pharmakis slowly introduces the album’s greater full-band presence that only appeared sparsely in previous Wind in Sails releases.
The third track, “Level Head,” first appeared in much simpler form on Wind in Sails’ 2013 EP Darker Nights. The original featured mostly acoustic guitar, modest percussion, and Pharmakis’s lone voice over the somber chords. However, the new version featured on the album includes many new elements that present the song in a deeper, more fully realized form. The new incarnation of “Level Head” adds soft keyboards gently humming over the quieter acoustic parts for a more somber atmosphere, while a full-band section coupled with new vocal harmonies replace the song’s sections that previously featured the simpler percussion. Pharmakis’s new additions to this older piece allow the track to shine as one of the album’s most outstanding songs.
“Lucid State,” the album’s fourth track, is the most consistently full-band track on Morning Light. Here, the electric guitar and drums take the forefront with the acoustic guitar lying subtly underneath. The lyrics also offer unique subject matter; Pharmakis sings of a woman haunting his mind during periods of lucid dreaming, who still continues to linger in his mind when he sleeps on his side to avoid the dreams. The fast-paced music joins with Pharmakis’s dark vocals to present listeners with an interesting and unique track on the album.
After “Lucid State,” the album’s musical style reverts back to a mostly-acoustic style in the vein of earlier Wind in Sails releases. The tracks “Murder Backwards,” “Side by Side,” “Hanging over You,” and “Set Adrift” present a simple but engaging combination of acoustic guitar with Pharmakis singing gently overtop, reminiscent of other artists such as City & Colour. “Hanging over You” also features a female vocalist joining Pharmakis for the song’s second half and creates an interesting and intimate duet.
The full-band aspect returns to the album’s ninth track, “The Mess We’re In.” Here, the electric guitar and vocals complement each other seamlessly in the lead, hanging over an upbeat rhythm section consisting of drums and acoustic guitar. This track provides a suitable indie-folk pick-me-up atmosphere following the handful of darker acoustic songs before it.
The upbeat style of “The Mess We’re In” continues into track ten, “Heart to Focus,” another song taken and reimagined from an earlier release. The original “Heart to Focus” appeared on the Darker Nights EP and consisted of tambourine, acoustic guitar, vocals, and some background electric guitar work. Pharmakis takes these elements from the first version, tightens them, and adds drums to round out the composition. This track’s reimagining results in a catchy, folky indie-rock piece with plenty of hooks.
Pharmakis concludes his album with “Wild Child,” a track that starts with a quick-paced acoustic riff. Before the song passes its first minute, the acoustic guitar fades from the song’s forefront to join a driving drum beat, twangy electric guitar, and a crooning string section.
Morning Light, as a whole, makes a strong debut album for Wind in Sails. Pharmakis displays innate understanding of dynamic songwriting that both intrigues listeners and creates memorable tracks that will become instant classics the minute they enter one’s music library. On a five-point scale, Morning Light earns a well-deserved perfect score.
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