Ports of Call
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Ports of Call

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"New Music: Ports of Call: "Washout""

Philadelphia five-piece Ports of Call aren't the first band to bathe in the tuneful shoegaze jangling of Ride, but they've soaked up the influences to nice effect. On "Washout", from their self-released Like Thieves..., some wobbly guitar strums, smoldering distortion, and faraway warbles surround a measured bass line, cymbals splashing right behind them. Thomas Mosher, on guitar, and Carolynne McNeel-- who plays guitars, violins and keyboards in the group-- trade sweet, C86-ready nothings in duet, their whispery voices barely emerging above the din. That is, until the jarring chorus, when they reach a high, Beach Boys-like harmony on the word "down", a moment that briefly interrupts the song's otherwise soothing (though in concert no doubt plenty loud) atmospherics. If the more honeyed side of shoegaze was never your speed, Ports of Call probably won't be the band to win you over, but "Washout" is a well-executed example of the style and could well make its way onto a few CD mixes. - Pitchfork Media

"Ports of Call: Like Thieves..."

Rating: 8/10

Like Michael Myres, Jason Voorhees and Martin Lawrence, shoegaze has proven itself to be an unstoppable force. Presumed dead in the mid 90s, here comes the second wave.

Ports of Call, from Philadelphia can be seen doing a merry jig atop said wave, possibly on a surfboard if your imagination is more physics based. With their debut album “Like Thieves....” they have cleverly sidestepped all of the faux pas that led to the genres demise first time around.

Shoegaze came under heavy fire for it's self-congratulatory attitude, meaningless lyrics and pretentious pomposity coupled with shy, awkward live performances. (and those were some of the nicer descriptions) With “Like Thieves...”, Ports of Call have married the shimmering effulgent walls of noise with tangible melodies, resplendent reverb-infused vocals and a firm anchorage to the philosophy of alternative rock (music without meaning is noise)

While this album is unlikely to win over entrenched hearts, “Honey”, with it's lush, coruscating lead guitar line and the slow paced beauty of “Spirals” add to an immensely enjoyable 34 minutes of music, which although not immediately arresting, is likely to camp outside the heart of it's listeners, patiently waiting for the door to open. After which, it'll emit a small smile and wander in, unlikely to be facing eviction in the near future.

Anyone familiar with Ports of Call will be aware of the claims of musical similarity between the intro of their track “Honey” and the Oasis album track “Bring It On Down”. We can see that connection and raise it, for the intro of “Claire” sounds somewhat akin to the Stone Roses song “She Bangs the Drums”. Ports of Call we await your response to these completely unfounded claims!

In terms of style though, it's hard to fault them. Lead vocalists Thomas and Carolynne do a grand job of bringing out huge depth and emotion when they trade off vocal cues and rather than simply providing a constant beat, the rhythm section expertly provide many subtle, and many daring changes of pace and tone. Rather than feeling like you're listening to half an hour of pretty noise, the end result is a rich, evolving tapestry of heartfelt art. - strangeglue.com

"Ports of Call - the Khyber, Philadelphia Pa."

Philadelphia quintet Ports of Call work their shoegaze magic in a live set rich and haunting in harmonies with ambient vocals and lush in reverb. The band only recently got its start in 2007 when Tom Fleischer and Thomas Mosher (both formerly of Aircrash/L'Envoi) reunited and acquired House of Fire drummer Daniel Salerno.

Though writing came easily to the trio, they knew they still need something and began the search for a second vocalist. Enter Carolynne McNeel (also of Rarebirds, Grammar Debate, Roomtone and formerly April Disaster). McNeel, in addition to her vocals, tackles the keys, guitar and violin, lending to Ports of Call's dreamy sound. The band is rounded out by bassist Stephanie Hesser (ex-Daymaker)who replaced Andrew Grossman following his departure after the recording of the band's debut album Like Thieves...

Ports of Call moves beautifully between psychedelic drugged out rock and dreamy pop, often blurring the lines between the two in ambient and experimental shoegaze. The turnout for their set at the Khyber on Friday night was wonderful and the crowd ate up every second of sound Ports of Call provided. Salerno's drums drove songs forward, along with McNeel's tambourine on a few songs, behind beautiful three part harmonies that walked the line of haunting and eerie.

The five played all but one song from Like Thieves, subbing in a new song, "Waterfall," instead. Mosher announced that this new song will hopefully be appearing on a 7" by the band to be released later this summer. "Waterfall" was faster and poppier than its predecessors, yet remained reverb-drenched and retained its elegant ambiance.

Ports of Call is an absolute must to see perform live. Currently, their next scheduled date isn't until August 8th at New York City's Rehab, but get your fill by purchasing the brilliant Like Thieves... - popwreck(oning)

"Shoegaze in 2008 | Five Acts not to be Missed"

I couldn’t write this post without giving Philadelphia some love, so enter Ports of Call as another shoegaze act that you should get familiar with this year. The Philly quintet blends psychedelic with atmospheric in the most beautiful of ways, painting haunting soundscapes which are highlighted by the interplay of innocent boy/girl vocals that are almost drowned out by the noise. Ports of Call play Club Midway in New York on April 23rd and Johnny Brenda’s in Philly on April 30th. Like Thieves is out now and can be ordered from the band. - FRICTION NYC

"Ports of Call Act Like Thieves"

There is no need for me to stress the importance of atmosphere within music. Anyone who has heard any quality music, from classical works to punk or shoegaze, understands that it is a vital component in building up a dedicated fan base, with a song’s “catchiness” obviously not being the only factor in what creates an admirable result. As simple as it may be for many musicians to hum a melody and relay it into instrumental form, capturing a sense of atmospheric believability is a skill that cannot simply be taught. Artists who intentionally seek a certain atmosphere are very similar to artists who limit themselves to only one style in which they enjoy; both often fail in their aftereffect due to their linear outlook and restrictive tendencies. Many of their talents lie elsewhere in other stylistic niches, but they limit themselves and eventually cause their hidden skills to become useless and generally irrecoverable. It would be quite easy for me to group Ports of Call into the masses of shoegaze revivalists that are finding a home in this decade, spurred by a movement over 20 years old. But they, unlike many of their contemporaries, clearly have the ability to craft an audible atmosphere through their musical prowess alone. Whether it be through their haunting production effects, reverbed vocals, or resoundingly sterile guitars, their atmospheric ability is easy to admire.

At this point, the most prominent fans of Ports of Call are located near the band’s originative location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though they could still easily be penned as a local favorite, the keen five-piece presents ambitions that are too formidable to allow them to stick around in one city for long. Their sound is a proficiently blended mixture of several styles of alternative music that were prominent in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the most relevant being college rock, post-punk, and shoegaze. Despite several other contemporary acts attempting similarly influenced styles, Ports of Call’s depiction of the American Underground scene is fresh and invigorating. Their most distinctive influence appears in the form of Sonic Youth, the legendary act who nearly every newly successful indie-rock band seems to owe a great debt to. Their lineup is presented similarly as well, with a serenely brisk set of female vocals gliding over numerous layers of guitars and keys, often supported or relieved by a set of accompanying male vocals. If it were not for Ports of Call’s equalized focus on the murky production aspects of shoegaze, a youngin’ might even mistake the vocal duo for Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Even with such respectable comparisons, Ports of Call’s sound is generally more relaxed and subdued than Sonic Youth’s, with whirring guitar effects and pedals utilized to perfection over vocals that rarely shift in volume or tone. It is within their tone of relaxation that makes Ports of Call unique in their own rich methods of revivalism.


Though Ports of Call remain a band with little to no personal information available for the press kit-hungry consumers, the quality of their musical content is unquestionable. If I were to make an educated guess, I believe that Ports of Call’s current “unsigned” status will be altered by mid-2008 at the very latest. Such expectations are hardly unrealistic, as Ports of Call’s self-released debut, Like Thieves, encompasses all the mature characteristics that labels look for in a budding act. With shimmering guitars and savvy vocal effects establishing my aforementioned infatuation with Ports of Call’s atmospheric irresistibility, I cannot help but be impressed by the five-piece’s level of production. My favorite track on the album, “Washout”, is structurally simplistic but layered with elegance and intricacy. As vocalists Thomas and Carolynne alternate between vocal cues, a series of shifting guitar progressions glides freely over a consistent rhythm section. When the duo combines for a duet over the subdued roar of a droning guitar throughout the bridge and chorus, the beauty of both “Washout” and Ports of Call’s blossoming style becomes wildly apparent. In the chorus, Carolynne abruptly raises her vocal pitch significantly to highlight her emotional strain; it is incredibly touching when relayed over the band’s thick instrumentation, guided by numerous guitars and effects. Just like Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, the vocal interaction between Thomas, Carolynne, and the responsive guitars are breathtaking.

All this talk surrounding the vocal, guitar, and production work in Like Thieves nearly made me forgot about one of Ports of Call’s most productive assets. Though all three melodic aspects are extremely impressive, the rhythm section, consisting of newly acquired bassist Stephanie and drummer Daniel, is a treat in its own right. Look no further than the brooding “Claire” for a definitive example. The intensity of Daniel’s drums steers the intensity of the track, with a variety of fills and and subdued consistencies clarifying the transitions between verse, bridge, and chorus. With the guitars giving off a typical post-punk edge, Stephanie’s bass lines resound just as effectively in its overpowering approach. Though the guitar and bass remain in similar key, her commendable bass work allows for flexibility and, in turn, an abundance of varying enjoyment. The grungey “Honey” utilizes both the guitar-led and rhythm section aspects of Ports of Call’s powerful approach, all while emphasizing a larger focus on the vocal melody. Even though it is one of the more accessible tracks on Like Thieves, “Honey” is still just as gloomily muddled as the rest… and enjoyably so. Keep an eye on Ports of Call and their debut album, Like Thieves, when it drops in January. One thing is for sure: Ports of Call will not be unsigned for much longer. - Obscure Sound

"Ports of Call - Like Thieves (self released)"

Ports of Call - Like Thieves (self released)

Ports of Call is a Philadelphia five piece conjuring up atmospeheric shoegaze of epic proportions. The band began last year when Thomas Mosher (guitar, vocals) and Tom Fleischer (guitar) were writing a lot of material but needed a band. Daniel Salerno joined on drums, and Carolynne McNeel (of Rarebirds and Grammar Debate) added vocals, guitar, keys, and violin, much to the delight of the founding members. Bassist Stephanie Hesser rounds out the group and joined after their debut album was recorded, replacing former bassist Andrew Grossman. The band's sound is very rich and dripping with grandiose effects surrounded by more subtle vocals. Self admitted influences include Sonic Youth, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine, but these are but a few of the seminal bands to make an impact on Ports of Call. They all are huge music fans with inspiration pulling from music of different areas (New Wave, Classic Rock) and their own city life experiences. Inspired also by living in the more industrial areas of Philly, the band creates sonic cityscapes that are in sync with the heart and soul of the city, and at times even transcend.

The recently debuted new album "Like Thieves" is self released and available online in both digital and CD formats (unless you live in Philly, where you can pick one up at AKA Music or Tequila Sunrise Records). There are ten tracks, and the album carefully builds over time in tempo and mood to transport you into their world. The opener "Ellipsis" is a gorgeous lullaby with drowning guitar washes slowly repeating to serve as a teaser. The opening track ellides right into "Washout", where the guitars and vocals are more layered, and where McNeel's delicate backing vocals enhance the layers further. However, it's clear as the song ends on an extended "fuzz" note that the shoegaze is front and center. This is true for all tracks, where all vocals, whether primary or backing, are secondary to the gentle guitar distortions. Things get interesting by track four, called "Honey", which channels a more psychedelic or garage version of shoegaze, not unlike The Jesus and Mary Chain. (One has got to wonder about the name of this track - is it likely an homage to JAMC, referencing their most famous song?) And the following song, the title track "Like Thieves", very much owes a debt to 90s British indie rock, especially with the haunting guitar stylings of Echo and the Bunnymen. McNeel's vocals become more prominent on "Aireals" and "Hermissenda", and then they subside while the songs become more subdued towards the end of the record. - girl about town

"What A Rush"


Depending on how you look at it, Ports of Call either rushed its debut album or took its sweet, sweet time.

They'd been a band, practicing and playing shows around town, for only about a year. They'd solidified their lineup a mere four weeks earlier. But still the quintet hauled its gear up to Second Story Sound Studios in West Chester to record the dreamy, shoegazing self-released opus Like Thieves ....

According to singer-guitarist Thomas Mosher, when it feels right, you just gotta go for it. "I'd been trying to make this sound in my head for six years and I finally had it," he says. "I just really wanted to get it down before it faded."

Mosher and guitarist Tom Fleischer had been playing together for years in Aircrash and L'Envoi — two Philly bands Google knows almost nothing about. With Like Thieves ... , Ports of Call is bound to make an impression.

"I remember when Tom and I were driving home after doing the final mix and listening to it in his car and we were both just, like, wow ... we finally made something solid, we've finally found the sound," recalls Mosher. "Granted, now I listen to it and think of all the things we could have done differently, but I think you always do that and that's what makes you keep making records: always trying to attain perfection.

The last piece of the puzzle for Like Thieves ... was Carolynne McNeel, known for fronting a few Philly bands, including the defunct April Disaster and still-going-strong Rarebirds. She joined Ports of Call shortly before the four-day recording session to add guitar, violin, keys and vocals. Daniel Salerno plays drums. Since the recording, Stephanie Hesser has replaced Andrew Grossman on bass. Each bandmate praises the chemistry of its current lineup.

On "Washout," Mosher's voice intertwines with McNeel's. The choruses seem to pause for the singers to take a breath. Chords clang, and a high sound (keyboard? cello? something else?) brays mournfully in the background. It's lovely and a little spooky. They're looking to shoot a video for that one soon. Other songs tip-toe the edges of the shoegaze sound; "Honey" has a little guitar hook bravado, and "Claire" is unapologetically catchy.

The album's finest moments come during "Here We Are." Again the lyrics are hard to discern, again it paints up a wistful, yearning vibe with rushing symbols, a garage-rock beat and a bunch of instruments moving as one. "The beautiful vocal harmonies between Thomas and Carolynne added the sugar on top," says Salerno. "Then Tom added the sexy, as he always seems to do."

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Shoegaze music, for those unfamiliar with this curious little sub-sub-genre, is all about putting the human voice on equal footing with the guitars and keys and bass. The singer often shadows the crescendos and rushing walls of sound, but rarely overtakes them. Think Ride. Think My Bloody Valentine. It's a pleasant, atmospheric vibe, gentler than psychedelic, less precious than twee, hazier than math rock, more jangly and moody than fun music tends to be. But Ports of Call is fun. Upbeat beats and swooning verses lead to head-scratching choruses that echo in your ear buds.

"I think overall the aesthetic philosophy is just to make something that sounds good," says Mosher. Melody is valued above all things. "I think in general we all just kinda went with a feeling rather than a lyrical message."

It's no surprise they will be sharing the stage Friday night with two beloved veterans of psych-influenced indie rock, New Radiant Storm King and Photon Band. Those bands got their start in the pretty, gritty DIY '90s, and Ports of Call's understated pop songs would fit nicely onto a mixtape from that era, alongside Tsunami, Ida, Velocity Girl and Moped. It was a time when the singer and the guitarist both worked with the grain, and the blending of girl voices with boy voices seemed like the formula for pop perfection.

To put it another way: This is a band of music fans, and its sound seems to be the simple conclusion when the five of them come together, however quickly they do so. Despite its hurried beginnings, Like Thieves ... sounds comfortable, and assured. It doesn't sound rushed. "It really didn't feel rushed, either," says Fleischer. "I guess we did it that early because it was time to do it, it made sense to." - Philadelphia Citypaper


"Like Thieves..." - CD Album, Feb 2008

Our track "Washout" has been very popular on internet radio as well as some broadcast radio stations in Europe and in California.

We also offer several streaming tracks via myspace and last.fm.



Ports of Call began in 2007 when guitarist Tom Fleischer and guitarist/vocalist Thomas Mosher reunited and joined forces with drummer Daniel Salerno. The band began writing material at a feverish pace but knew that something was missing. The group began to search for a second vocalist and soon found a perfect match in Carolynne McNeel who added essential guitar, string, and keyboard elements as they entered Second Story Studios to record their album. Upon completion of the record, bassist Andrew Grossman departed and was replaced by Stephanie Hesser. Drawing inspiration from acts such as Ride, My Bloody Valentine and the entire 4AD roster, the now complete quintet has self-released
their debut album "Like Thieves…" amidst a growing internet buzz.