Port Cities by Port Cities – Album Review
by David Schuster
This is an excellent debut by the Canadian trio of Dylan Guthro, Breagh MacKinnon and Carlton Stone. Port Cities formed in 2015, but before that they were all individual singer songwriters with solo careers. To date, they have a string of awards in their home province of Nova Scotia, and this heritage is reflected in the quality of the 12 songs on the album.
Stand out tracks include ‘Back to The Bottom’, a lively opener with a West Coast sound reminiscent of Tom Petty. ‘In the Dark’, with the chorus: “We come alive in the dark” could easily be from the soundtrack of one of the Twilight saga movies. Indeed, it is this commercial attraction that could quickly catapult them to arena performances.
I first listened to the CD driving home on the motorway over the moors, and it was the perfect background soundtrack. The second time I played it, I could hear my wife singing along in the next room. Instant accessibility is a rare quality and means that you could happily put Port Cities alongside that copy of Rumours and play it to friends over coffee.
That mainstream appeal is also their key weakness. The sound is so polished that it lacks the individuality necessary to be distinctive. If you turned on the radio and heard one of their songs playing you’d struggle to identify the band, which is a problem when you are trying to build a following.
‘How to Lose You, Where Have You Been’ and ‘The Out’ all illustrate what the group are best at; capturing the strong emotions of relationships, and the pains of love. ‘How to Lose You’ reflects the uncertainty of knowing you’ve found something special, and not wanting to lose it. ‘Where Have You Been’ is from a much darker place emotionally, waiting in vain for someone to come home to the inevitable row as a relationship disintegrates. ‘The Out’ is the strongest track, with the catchy and empowering chorus: “If you want to leave right now, I’m giving you the hour”.
“All I ever wanted to be was an astronaut” is the final line of Astronaut that finishes the album – and Port Cities really could reach those heights: Buy it now, so that you can say you were in at the beginning.