Review: Chinatown, The Night Market (Self-Released, 2016)

The debut EP from Philadelphia trio Chinatown, The Night Market offers four songs in about 12 minutes, following on the heels of an excellent four-song demo that was released back in October. And it's a sound that can't be crammed nicely into any single genre. There's definitely some raw, angular '90s emo in place, as well as a few indie rock-leaning hooks; but you'll also find subdued hints of a post-punk-esque somberness, some Archers of Loaf-ish moments, and a legitimate sense of feeling that just works. (I'm also reminded of a rawer and less straightforward All State Champion.)

The unexpectedly low-key "Foul Play" begins with melodic keyboard swells that give way to mesmerizing pulses of roaming bass over a simple beat with half-spoken vocals, only occasionally encircled by lightly distorted/reverberated guitars. "Snuff" boasts more of a catchy, jangly energy—reminiscent of the sadly defunct Young Adults, which might explain why The Night Market is one of the first new releases of 2016 to really strike a nerve with me. "Curb" slows back down with an approach similar to "Foul Play," as ruggedly bright guitars swirl around a core of really interesting basswork; and the oddly catchy plod of repetition in "Below Zero" makes it possibly my favorite track herein.

The production is uniquely stripped down and furrowed. The drums tend to be mixed into the background, guitars just slightly dominant, and the vocals are always just underneath. It's clearer than the demo, which really highlights how badass the bass runs are. Neither flashy nor overplayed, but a lot more active than they might seem on the surface.

Not unlike the music, the artwork is atypical; the lyrics simple, but not really:

I am the winter
Flowers wilt at my touch
Save your words
Save your trust
Drown you out with my thoughts
So you don't talk so much
Robbed your house with the lights on
Walked to the car
Drove home

Drown you out

I highly recommend both this EP and the demo (each available as name your price downloads through Bandcamp). The songwriting on the demo is slightly more immediate, whereas The Night Market takes a few listens to really reveal itself—but once it clicks, it hits with more emotional impact. I'm definitely feeling excited about Chinatown, they're going to be one of those rare contemporary acts that I try to actively keep up with. Great work.

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