2nd Grade Hi Five is a local duo that's made a name for itself by recently opening for bands like The Rocket Summer, Greeley Estates, and He Is We. Randy Gurtler sings, plays guitar and handles programming and samples; Will Kniep plays guitar and sings backup.
Gurtler has been recording as 2nd Grade Hi Five since 2005, and he released an EP, Audio Photography, in 2008. Kniep, a former member of The Comeback Year, came onboard last year, after Potential, the debut full-length, was recorded.
On Potential, Gurtler combines mostly acoustic instrumentation with electronic elements to arrive at ballads and midtempo, sweet acoustic pop of the emo-derived variety. Fittingly, most of the songs are about youngsters in love.
These songs live and die by how catchy they are, and "Never Gonna Stop," with its Tucson-specific lyrics (including references to Wilmot, Broadway and Park Place Mall) is among the catchiest. It's about nothing more than "get(ting) down" after a visit to the mall with a significant other, but it benefits from the juxtaposition of fast and slow cadences in the vocal melody. It's also among the quicker-paced songs here, and that's no coincidence: The similarly (relatively) up-tempo "Love Me/Leave Me," with its subtle new wave flourishes, is another highlight. Among the many ballads, the sparse "They Say" is the prettiest.