Review: Korean-American indie folk band, Run River North

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The Korean-American indie folk rock band, Run River North, creates folk tales of their own and sings them valiantly to whoever chooses to listen by introducing personal anecdotes that morph into poetic stories of adventure. They create imagery for listeners that could come from a picture book meant for adults.

Formerly known as Monsters Calling Home, the band formed in 2011 and has been going six years strong as Run River North. The up-and-coming band currently has released four albums, with their most recent titled: “Drinking From a Salt Pond,” which has now been out for one year.

There are a total of six members in the band. Their lead singer is Alex Hwang, who often performs without shoes while in concert. All six possess incredible talents and pull off the indie-folk-rock-look well. I would describe them as very creative, with a dash of hipster and quirk.

For reference, artists that have a similar sound to this band include A Silent Film, Judah & the Lion, The Strumbellas and The Lumineers – who all have an very indie-folk sound.

In addition to their original music, the band has been known to cover “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers and “The Girl” by City and Colour.

Last year, on April 10, they performed at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on the top floor.

The band introduced a live performance of “Drinking From a Salt Pond” to all the eager and attentive audience members.

They sounded no different than the way they do on the album. You paid for exactly what you hoped for, which was $14. They exceeded my expectations considering the ticket price.

It doesn’t matter where you listen to their music – the music will be good either way, but the live experience definitely made it all the more worthwhile. 

The band combines a graceful touch of the violin with an acoustic and electric guitar and a bang of the drums – and don’t forget the occasional tambourine. The band is friendly, talkative and inspirational, which brought the audience closer, making the already intimate venue even more so than before. They created conversation.

Their new album is all-around entertaining and creates a sense of serenity, even with more of their upbeat hits. While all of the songs from their new album are my style of music, my favorite song by them has to be “Foxbeard.” There are many to choose from, so it’s difficult for me to mention just the one. However, I believe that “Foxbeard” provides a story along with poetic imagery for listeners and defines what their music truly encompasses.

The intro to the song “Foxbeard” from their album “Run River North is as follows:

“I knew a man who found a forest overseas/He grew his beard like the grounds bear trees/Callous his hands, his heart bled dry/He kept his fire in the clutch of his eyes

“He painted with a dark stroke, dirty on the canvas/Creation was holy but we chose against it/The devil knows he’s evil no need to proclaim/It’s the choices we make that bring glory-glory to his name”

To me, this paints a picture of creation. While the band is not a Christian indie folk rock band, there are some slight undertones expressing Christianity in this song particularly. Incorporating this idea enhances the story they are telling and insists upon imagination among listeners. The song starts out with a slow intro of acoustic guitar followed by an electric guitar that leads into the vocals. 

“Drinking From a Salt Pond” features 11 songs and is considered to be both alternative and indie.

While this new album challenges their style musically, their lyrics continue to create images inside of the listeners’ minds.

Run River North constantly poses questions of wonderment from their creative lyrics, allowing for open interpretation to listeners. This makes their music more free-spirited and will make your ears crave more. 

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