Stream Harmony Woods’ Surprise Bartees Strange-Produced Album Graceful Rage
Sofia Verbilla has always been good at telling stories in the songs she makes as Harmony Woods. On her 2017 debut Nothing Special and its 2019 follow-up Make Yourself At Home, the Best New Band honoree occupied narratives that let her navigate thorny situations from a distance, like on her pair of “Best Laid Plans” songs that depicted two characters who know a relationship has failed but are unwilling to meet its inevitable end.
Her third album, Graceful Rage — which is being released today as a surprise — is a good deal more personal, or at least it seems that Verbilla is finally ready to let down the shield of Harmony Woods, a name-like moniker that allows for some distance from what she’s singing about. From its very first track, Graceful Rage is withering and direct. “I’m tired of being led to believe things aren’t what they seem when they’re standing right in front of me,” she sings. “You may not realize it yet, but I wish you the best/ Yeah, everything’s fucked/ Good luck.”
Throughout Graceful Rage, she certainly lives up to the simmering fury of its title. Verbilla balances between vengeful and empathetic, letting her anger go while also building up herself and her own power. “I should be mad at you for what you did/ I’m mostly sad for you instead,” she sings on the booming and anthemic “Easy.” “But if you ever lay a finger on another girl again/ You’ll be dead to me/ You make it so easy.”
She frequently pulls from the geography of Philadelphia, in Rittenhouse Square with its cringing pigeons or the Fishtown row homes she walks by while trying not to fall apart. She likens public perception and her own relationships to cities, seemingly impenetrable fortresses until they come crumbling down. “Your city’s not as bright as you think/ Demons hidden inside all the buildings,” she sings on “God’s Gift To Women,” a song directed at that features some venomous put-downs like: “Keep writing those records about how you know best/ Like you’re a walking fucking copy of Infinite Jest.”
Produced by Bartees Strange, the songs alternate between sounding like billowing thunderclouds and the calm after a rainstorm. Verbilla’s voice has never sounded better and neither have the backdrops she surrounds herself with, filled with searing guitars and bashing drums. It’s a big level-up for Harmony Woods and you should listen below.
Graceful Rage is out now.