The Philadelphia band 2nd Grade combine hooky indie pop, sprightly power pop, and gentle indie rock ballads into brief songs that sound like Guided by Voices taking a crack at the Teenage Fanclub songbook. The group’s leader, Peter Gill, imbues the songs with an innocent, happy-go-lucky appeal, and albums like their first full-length, 2020′s Hit to Hit, and its 2022 follow-up Easy Listening are breezy and sweeter than lemonade.
The band in its early incarnation was just Gill, writing all the songs and playing all the instruments. His first record under the name was a 14-song cassette titled Wish You Were Here Tour, released by the Philadelphia label Sleeper Records in 2018. The songs were short and poppy, combining the brevity of GBV with the power pop hooks of Big Star. Prior to starting 2nd Grade, Gill had played in the bands Friendship and Free Cake for Every Creature. When he looked for people to join him in 2nd Grade, he turned to his Friendship bandmate Jon Samuels to play guitar. His Philly connections led to two members of Remember Sports (guitarist Catherine Dwyer and bassist Jack Washburn) joining up as well. The lineup was rounded out by drummer Will Kennedy. This group recorded 2020′s album Hit to Hit, a slightly cleaned-up-sounding take on the style Gill established on the band’s debut. The record was released in May 2020 by Brooklyn-based label Double Double Whammy. The same lineup of the group re-recorded eight songs from the Wish You Were Here Tour cassette, giving them the full power pop treatment. These recordings, plus the original Gill-only songs and one previously unreleased outtake, were collected on the 2021 release Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited. A proper sophomore album arrived in 2022 with Easy Listening, another digest of bite-sized power pop gems. Relatively speaking, the album was slightly less jam packed than previous records, consisting of only 16 spirited and summery rockers rather than the 20-plus songs that made up other 2nd Grade releases. ~ Tim Sendra