Lyricist: Alex Hwang.
Personnel: Alex Hwang (vocals, acoustic guitar); Sally Kang (vocals, keyboards); Daniel Chae (electric guitar, violin); Jennifer Rim (violin); Joseph Chun (bass guitar); John Chong (drums).
Audio Mixer: Phil Ek.
Recording information: Avast Studios, Seattle, WA.
Photographers: Brian Kim; Catie Laffoon.
Bursting with youthful passion, California's Run River North create a lush and soothing world on their self-titled debut album. Since forming in 2011, the six-member ensemble from the San Fernando Valley has diligently honed their brand of heartfelt, orchestral indie pop on-stage and at home, and they've even filmed a video of themselves recording tracks in their cars. With their folky, anthemic sound and warm harmonies, comparisons to similarly minded bands like Of Monsters and Men and The Head and the Heart are apt, although even at their most serious, they still exude a sort of laid-back West Coast charm that could only come from kids who grew up in the Valley. Working with producer Phil Ek, whose credits include other throaty troubadours like Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, the group has laid a sturdy foundation of well-written acoustic pop with songs like "Monsters Calling Home," "Fight to Keep," and the buoyant rocker "Excuses." Their music is rich and expansive and the songs often deal with broad themes of emotional and spiritual struggle like on "Beetle" and "Somewhere." Still, with all their questioning, they usually seem to come out on top with a calm sort of gracefulness, packaging their dark themes of soul-searching into a more hopeful and comforting package. This type of earnest, introspective folk-pop isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but Run River North do their version of it well, emanating a friendliness that is easy to get behind. They largely avoid the rootsy cliches of the waning new folk movement, identifying more with the chamber pop side of the spectrum on this promising debut. ~ Timothy Monger