Port Cities is the trio of Carleton Stone (vocals, guitar), Breagh MacKinnon (vocals, keys) and Dylan Guthro (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, drums and bass) from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They’ll be swinging through Portland for their first visit to Maine on June 13 at Empire Theater.
The members of Port Cities started playing together toward the end of 2015 and released their debut, self-titled album in 2017. A handful of other singles and remixes have followed.
I’m only recently discovering Port Cities and am a massive fan. I love every song I’ve listened to, beginning with the album-opening “Back to the Bottom.” It’s a hopeful, upbeat jewel, despite the repeated line, “I’m going back to the bottom.” The vocals of MacKinnon and Guthro are sensational, and it’s a perfect example of how to open an album on a perfect note. The album leapfrogs from bouncy (“In the Dark”) to tender (“Sound of Your Voice”) to seething (“Where Have You Been”) to a breakup song with a beat called “The Out.”
The album ends with “Astronaut.” MacKinnon sings alone on this one, and it’s a gorgeous tune that gets to the heart of missing the simplicity of childhood. “And over time the dream got old and faded/And everything just gets so complicated.” Listening to it was a sucker punch to my sometimes jaded heart, which of course means I love it madly.
Then there are the singles! “Montreal,” released last year, is in my heavy rotation at the moment. Guthro and MacKinnon trade verses as the song paints a scene of two souls meeting in an unexpected moment. The moment, standing by the flower wallpaper mentioned in the lyrics, leaves a permanent mark, such is its power. Not to mention the fact that Montreal is where I plan to flee if things become unbearable here. Earlier this year the “Tep No” remix of the song was released. The remix doesn’t reinvent the song but lightly spritzes it with gasoline at key moments.
“Idea of You,” also released last year, is another have-to-mention single. MacKinnon takes lead and it’s a lush, synth-heavy number with percussion-like heartbeats. “Idea of You” is a steamy, mesmerizing take on desire with the lines, “Well maybe I’m in love with the idea of you/Cuz I don’t even know you/But I want you to kiss me/Maybe I’m in love with the idea of you.”
One more thing: Be on time for this show because you don’t want to miss the opening set by local act Pretty Sad. They’re a six-piece band formed by Dustin Saucier (lead guitar, vocals) and Renée Coolbrith (rhythm guitar, vocals) and they released their first two songs, “Blue” and “Insomniac in Love,” in April. Did you watch the reboot of “Twin Peaks?” Every episode ended with a to-die-for band playing in a bar. In no uncertain terms, I can easily picture Pretty Sad in one of these scenes playing either of these swoon-inducing tunes. They’re planning to record more music soon, and I can’t wait. Find them on Facebook and prettysadme.bandcamp.com.
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 in advance, $17 day of show, 18-plus.
TIX & INFO: statetheatreportland.com