Gianmarco Cilli's debut solo album Homely Joys is like a leaf. And here's why it's like a leaf: A leaf possesses natural beauty, of course (so does Homely Joys)and it also appears to be delicate (but it's not -- not really -- and neither is Homely Joys). And a leaf comes from something strong and tall, massive and alive. It's not so much that Gianmarco Cilli himself is strong, tall, massive, or alive (though he might be, as far as you know), but music is, and community and friendship and love are; and Homely Joys comes from all these things.
Let's say right here that the music on Homely Joys is soft and summery, featuring lots of acoustic guitar and bell-like electrics and harmony singing and dreamy percussion. It would sound very, very good in a canoe on a quiet lake. Now that we have some idea what it sounds like, we'll get to who made it and how he did it:
As a founding member, Gianmarco has provided a variety of instruments and songs to National Eye, the Philadelphia psychedelic music group. On its most recent release, 2008's The Farthest Shore (Park the Van), he provided slide guitar, regular guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, singing, and more, and he continues to play and record with the band as it prepares a new album for 2009.
Meanwhile in 2004, famed Secretly Canadian noisy/beautiful music band Windsor for the Derby relocated to Philadelphia and soon inducted Gianmarco into their ranks, first on drums and later bass guitar. He has appeared on Windsor's last two albums, Giving Up the Ghost(2005) and How We Lost (2007).
While working with these bands, Gianmarco worked up a backlog of songs that suggested an approach quite distinct from either project. As an album's worth of music took shape, he made demos and gave them to Windsor's co-leader Dan Matz.
After hearing (and loving) the song sketches, Matz offered to help Gianmarco make a proper record. The two (with help from others) spent time here and there over the next few years completing Homely Joys at Matz's home studio in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Gianmarco released the album privately, but it was soon picked up by New Orleans record label Park the Van, home to NE and much other lovely music.
Using many of the people who contributed to Joys, Gianmarco then assembled a septet for live performance consisting of a wide array of Philadelphia's finest: Dan Matz (Windsor), Charlie Hall (War on Drugs, Windsor), Todd Starlin (Like Moving Insects), Josh Newman (Fan of Friends, Mitch Fiction), Dave DeVisa (Capitol Years), and David Hartley (War on Drugs, BC Camplight). Incidentally, all of these people are also a part of the renowned men's singing chorus The Silver Ages (led by Charlie Hall) – a testament to the sort of creative cross-pollination that has made Philadelphia such a wonderful place to make and hear music.
This sense of communalism very much informs the feel of Homely Joys. In fact, a lot of these songs (I think) are about the difficulty/triumph of friendships. (Maybe it's because the guitars always seem to be getting along so well with each other.) (Maybe it's because there's something innately reassuring about this guy's voice.) The album rolls gently through the pains of strong bonds; pains ultimately rewarded, and a good life hard won. And you get to the end of it and it's like a wind blew through you and the wind blew a leaf down from a tree. Which I guess is why I said earlier that Homely Joys is like a leaf.
Oh, one last thing: Gianmarco Cilli is Italian, which is why he has such a weird name. His surname is pronounced like the famous pepper.