By Julie Smitka (Cover photo by Daniel Coston)
July 22, 2016
A love of psychedelic rock combined with the dreamlike imagery of clouds as relics developed during Stephen Warwick’s childhood and have blossomed into Charlotte’s own Ancient Cities.
Within the two years that followed the release of their self-titled debut album, Ancient Cities have performed at the 2015 CMJ Music Marathon, won a chance to record with Converse Rubber Tracks with Seth Manchester and garnered attention at festivals including FloydFest, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Newport Folk, and Shakori Hills. After sharing the stage with The Naked & Famous, Futurebirds and of Montreal, the band (now Warwick, Justin Fedor, and Justin Faircloth) have released their anticipated sophomore album Supermoon Blackout this month.
Staying true to his psych-rock roots, Warwick infuses his lyrics with synths reminiscent of The Doors while incorporating folk rock and blues guitars. Supermoon Blackout shifts between blues rock bridges and gradually introduced textures accompanied by evocative percussion, which may be influenced by a young John Bonham. The use of handclaps and congas on “Marmalade” and “Sorceress” and the electric piano and guitars throughout the album show Ancient Cities’ instrumental repertoire and their ability to “rewrite the future now” by continuing to draw on past inspirations.
The 11-track album mastered and recorded in Portland, Boston and Charlotte captures intricacies that reflect the sentiments of Warwick’s writing. “Sunburn” has the warmest tones on the album. In “Marmalade,” Warwick sings “Southern belle you can hear her start to ring / Cover your eyes but she burns right through your brain” at the same moment a melodic layer appears underneath the vocals. In the closing track “Losing My Mind” driven by repetition of the title, “Put all your worries aside / And let the good times fly / But at the end of the climb / I keep on losing my mind” flows over an upbeat rhythm, signaling the end of the journey of the album and the idea that the inevitable is far from unbearable.
Watch the new music video for “Marmalade” off the new album