2nd Grade Hi Five: Potential (Self-Released)

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.

Potential is available online at CDBaby.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.

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