Located in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel, the venue hosts live acoustic sets every Friday and Saturday night during the academic year, opening its doors to professional and amateur musicians alike. Performances run the full gamut of genres, from blues, rock, and jazz to a cappella and even poetry readings. After listening to some sample tracks by upcoming artists, Spec put together its musical picks for Postcrypt perfection.
Despite a technical background in jazz composition, NYC-based singer-songwriter Caleb Hawley maintains a degree of accessibility in his music that’s comparable to Stevie Wonder and James Taylor. His latest full-length release, “Steps,” incorporates jazz and folk influences into pop songwriting. “Every Shade of Gray,” a relaxed, syncopation-heavy blues number about becoming the ideal version of yourself, exemplifies not only Hawley’s dexterity with his instrument, but also his knack for making lyrical observations on life. A guitar virtuoso with a big voice, his music is hardly monotonous. In “Fade,” cascading piano scales complement vocals fit for musical theater.
Friday, Oct. 22, 10:30–11:30 p.m.
Bronx-raised singer-songwriter Randy Niles is no stranger to the musically gray area of genre crossover. Equally schooled in classic R&B and Metallica, Niles blends rock, pop, blues, and folk into seamless, radio-ready compositions—he’s John Mayer without the pretentiousness. In his 2010 release, the five-song EP “Perfect,” Niles showcases his growth as an artist straddling the genre divide. The ethereal eddy of synchs in “Satellite” is an exploration through textural landscapes that oddly recall Radiohead. His soulful crooning—“It’s a tragedy when x, y, z won’t equal three”—in “Birds of a Feather” speaks poetically to the complications of a romantic tryst over a slow-burning guitar motif.
Friday, Oct. 15, 9:30–10:30 p.m.
A relatively established folk musician with Appalachian roots, A.J. Roach crafts music where the lines blur between progressive indie and traditional folk—a hauntingly beautiful alt-country reminiscent of Wilco. His 2008 LP release, “Revelation,” features instruments as diverse as his approach to songwriting: The banjo, mandolin, accordion, and trumpet all make their respective appearances on the record. The title track, “The Revelation,” is a chilling discourse on Judgment Day, when, as Roach sings in his raw Southern drawl, “every man is judged by what he’s really worth.” In light of his gripping lyrical poetry and musical depth, it is no surprise that his live shows are known for moving audience members to tears. Meanwhile, the muted, lo-fi atmosphere in “Hazel Blue” hints at a soft-spoken anger: “Some hearts you give as tokens/but mine is made out of glass that is broken.”
Saturday, Oct. 23, 9:30–10:30 p.m.
Hailing from Bristol, Tenn., modern Renaissance man David Gwaltney is an aspiring filmmaker, writer, and frontman for the indie pop outfit thecitylights* (denoted stylistically so as to prevent confusion with an Australian band of the same name). His music sounds like a sunnier Sufjan Stevens, albeit with darker lyrical content. The twinkling chimes and feather-light string arrangements in the cheekily titled “Insert Name, NYC” belie the deprecating lyrics as Gwaltney yelps, “You look like a model/you kiss like a whore.” In the hauntingly psychedelic “What Have I Done,” layered vocals and track samples intertwine as the lyrical soul searching descends into pop haziness.
Friday, Oct. 15, 10:30–11:30 p.m.