Live Review: Lula Wiles, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 19, 2019

“Sad About A boy” and “Mad About America” is one way to sort Lula Wiles’ songs. In the first category are the virtual a-side and b-side of the Boston trio’s new stand-alone single. “It’s Cool (We’re Cool, Everything’s Cool)” (as Eleanor Buckland, one of the group’s three terrific singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists, admitted at World Cafe Live, taken verbatim from a real text she sent to a real man) and “You Only Want Me When You Need Me” are instant indie-folk sing-alongs that derive their power from their relatability.

In the second category, “Good Old American Values” and “Shaking As It Turns,” both from last year’s What Will We Do, confront the lasting damage that colonialism and white supremacy have wrought, and the clear and present threat they pose today. They’re no less captivating for being so pointed. Introducing the former, Mali Obomsawin compared land acknowledgements without action to announcing whose car you’ve stolen and then continuing to drive away in it.

While both sorts of songs benefited from the mix of timeless textures and timely topics, it was the soaring harmonies from Buckland, Obomsawin and Isa Burke that left the deepest impression. From the a cappella “What Will We Do” to a thrilling version of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” that featured Matt Lohan and Louisa Stancioff of openers Dyado, the solution to the emotions and dilemmas that rush through Lula Wiles’ music seemed as clear, as simple and as complicated as learning to harmonize.

Listen. Connect. Support. Organize. Lift your voice and share the mic.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich