[ rock/pop ]
"You gave a sibilant shout, and then the baby was out," sings Philadelphia's Heyward Howkins on the breathtaking "Thunderin' Stop," the opening track on the Trouble With Sweeney vet's The Hale & Hearty. It's an arresting image and an apt metaphor for the feeling one has upon discovering this stunningly composed solo debut. The 11 tracks of exquisitely arranged chamber pop arrive, as if from nowhere, as a fully formed marriage of sophisticated orchestration and whimsical poesy. There are obvious comparisons to be made to the likes of Bon Iver or M. Ward on songs like "Sugar Sand, Stitched Lip" or the title track, as Howkins' soaringly emotive voice sketches up conflicts between modern living and simpler ways. On "Spanish Moss," Howkins nods to his hometown ("My city's way hung-over/ Still sore from red October") and his ancestors in the Southern cotton industry ("Brimmed hats on babes in waiting/ Magnolia is housing/ Heywards on cotton couches"). It all adds up to one of the most pleasantly surprising local debuts in some time.
Wed., June 27, 8 p.m., $8 donation, with Sofia Talvik and Emily Arin, at PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., philamoca.org.