Time and time again, I think about the solo acts who release music under a practical pseudonym. Not like the classic Samuel Clements to Mark Twain business, but Evan Weiss to Into It. Over It. or Chris Carrabba to Dashboard Confessional. Those acts that make you think “man they’re a great band”, when in reality, it is just someone giving themselves a band name. I, lacking any sort of musical inclination, can’t really vouch for or against it, but it’s kind of puzzling. Is it an artistic decision? Does adopting a band name give you additional credibility? Is it easier to market a band name than a first and last name?
I’m not sure why I’m so caught up on this, but for former Vanna guitarist Evan Pharmakis, whose name is pretty cool if you ask me, the name Wind in Sails has brought him an outlet to show off his softer side. Laying stake in the confines of Newport, Rhode Island, Pharmakis has quietly plucked along through the years. Signing to Equal Vision Records in late 2014, Wind in Sails has brought Pharmakis greater room to expand his sound and expose his music to a wider audience of fans, which he attempts to do with his second record, Morning Light. Despite Pharmakis’s best efforts, the charm that comes with this brand of acoustic rock grows a little stale here.
A mix of intimate acoustic numbers and fuller full-band takes, Morning Light certainly has the makings of a strong record akin to the likes of I Can Make a Mess, with Evan Pharmakis possessing similar eclectic aspirations. Most of the record however, centers on his acoustic guitar. His voice has a Stephen Christian vibe to it, but it doesn’t have the same aggressive range that Christian has been known to showcase. If it does, then we don’t see much of it here, as Pharmakis keeps it pretty somber throughout, with a sort of late night vibe to it.
The record can be best summed up in its opener, “Push and Shove”. Beginning with its light acoustic strums, Pharmakis’s delicate vocals kick in with an airy tone to them, with a faint echo to them as he sings to his lover, as the guitar kicks into a light drum rhythm that infuses the listener with hope, both for him and his lover, as well as the record as a whole. This optimism keeps itself intact for about half of “Keeping Count”, but beyond that, it becomes pretty easy to tell where Wind in Sails gets its breeze.
It is pretty much just these light acoustic strums, occasionally layered upon one another to heighten their collective power, Pharmakis’s charismatic voice telling us about love and hope and whatever, maybe with some drums tacked on top as well (maybe even with a random hint of country twang). Of course there is nothing wrong with this when you’re on Pandora, but 11 songs of this reeks of fatigue. Something like “Lucid State” has shades of Long Lost in it, and is probably as big as the record dares to go. Even “Heart to Focus” brings claps and chants into the mix, almost like you’re at a campfire or something, but besides that, Wind in Sails really likes its own formula, complete with nice vocals and nice guitar.
The main issue with this record is the fact that it doesn’t manage to really stretch any boundaries. It aims for the safest brand of acoustic rock and drives at it over and over again, finding the perfect formula and fiddling with it to add some feigned variety. For the most part though, Morning Light is just spinning the wheels. With the excitement that comes with this kind of music, the record brings forth a steady stream of homogeny and subtle boredom. It can get a little laborious attempting to keep invested for all 40 minutes or so, because each track becomes so easy to forget.
There is certainly a level of respect and enjoyment to be had here, but it doesn’t speak for itself. New fans won’t find a whole lot to latch onto here. With all of the creative liberties that a band-esque name manages to bring, Pharmakis finds himself more in solitude here. It seems to be very much his creation, which is a good thing, but Wind in Sails has the ability to grow so much, and this record feels like just another brick in the wall. People who like the idea of cool acoustic rock will be satisfied enough to say so, but not enough to run and tell all their friends about. In isolated bits, it manages to catch on, but on the whole, Morning Light sputters itself dry.