You’ve heard Al Harper’s stunning voice charm the sounds of several Bay Area–based acts over the years, from labelmates Eternal Drag to low-fi royalty Tony Jay. Now the Oakland-based musician and powerhouse vocalist combines her fresh Kate Bush-via-Bakersfield instincts with bright pop-rock intentions in Promises I Kept, her debut full-length.
Opening track “Hey You, What’s New” offers a hint of what the album holds in store. It’s a track tailor-made to be heard blasting from the AM radio of a convertible revving across the Bay Bridge in 1978. All of Harper’s major influences are present: Suzi Quatro’s late ’70s dueling guitars, Fleetwood Mac’s slinking grooves, Linda Ronstadt’s resolute heartbreak. But Harper’s delicate vocals and direct lyrics rocket the tune through the liminal space that’s neither now nor then, putting her in a dreamy orbit all her own.
From there emerges an astonishing array of sweetly soaring highs and desperately elegiac lows. Harper has the ability to summon a listener with angelic harmonies and then slice back with a surly sneer. (Where else can you be taken in by a gorgeous cascading vocal line, only to realize it’s smuggling in a desperate plea: “Please don’t die tonight”?) All around are chiming guitars, fluting synths, and just enough tambourine to remind you that when all else fails, a determined person can always jangle away on a lazy backbeat.
Promises I Kept is an unresolved reflection—on how to reconcile to life’s aching inconsistencies through love and longing. Listen deep, and you can’t but remember the feel of losing touch, the glow of coming back home to a long-kept comfort. Harper delivers her first LP at the perfect time, while we’re all reflecting on the hard-fought bargains we’ve made to make it through the past year. Or has it been over the past 20 years?
Whatever the case, we’ve got a future to contend with. As Harper sings on “Today I’m Gonna Miss Ya”: “If yesterday is done and gone for good / we better treat tomorrow like we should.” You’d be smart to listen to her.
Luna Collective, “Now Listening: This Week’s Tracks”
Al Harper, the indie-folkstress has just delivered a new track titled “Hey You, What’s New” that’s equal parts Fleetwood Mac and 70’s rock revival, and we’re not complaining. The new track comes from Promises I Kept, the debut LP from the Bakersfield-born, Oakland-based powerhouse vocalist that set to release this year. Harper’s angelic harmonies set the tone for one that challenges the soundscapes of folk, rock, and indie all in one. It’s a dreamy orbit that most fans can cruise down PCH to while recollecting on the better days of summer, and that’s exactly what we plan to do with “Hey You, What’s New”.
We All Want Someone to Shout For, Track review of “Hey You, What’s New”
Oakland, California-based singer-songwriter Al Harper confidently taps into 70s pop and classic rock vibes on her nostalgic single “Hey You, What’s New,” taken from her debut album Promises I Kept.
The track has a fun and hopeful sunny deposition that has a bit of a Jenny Lewis vibe, along with influences ranging as far back as classic girl group ideas and breezy Fleetwood Mac vibes. This is just silky smooth stuff, plain and simple.
It’s the perfect track for this summer, one that you can find streaming right now.
KALX 90.7, Al Harper live on KALX, February 9, 2019
The bay area band with roots in Oakland and San Francisco has had all sorts of varying descriptions from ‘alt-pop’ to ‘mid-fi’.
The Deli, “Al Harper’s fall shows bring warmth”
Oakland-based Al Harper is what we can only describe as delightful. Songs like “Paradise” and “Sunny Somewhere” have just the right amount of surfy guitars and sweet lyrics to put you in a fine little mood. Even finer is their video for “Sunny,” (directed by John Snapp) which features Harper encountering a sweet little dog a huggable friends. There’s kind of a modern day No Doubt feel and we’re digging it.
Tounge Tied Mag, Concert: Al Harper
The songs did suggest of a quick nostalgic tear shed during a break in a night out with friends. The newcomers did well in endearing themselves to the audience, and provided a lovely welcome… The musician, and her live performances, are certainly worth a listen.
Contact through Bandcamp