Haerts | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

New York-via-Germany indie pop duo Haerts made their way down to Philadelphia today with none of their trademark synths in tow. Instead, they treated today’s Free at Noon crowd to what they described as a “very stripped down” performance, trading flashier sounds for simple acoustic guitar and piano. It was both a look back at the band’s roots as a singer-songwriter duo, and a heartfelt exploration at the emotions at the center of their new album.

Haerts first made waves with their debut single “Wings” back in 2012, but the last few years have brought a period of personal and professional difficulty for the band. The married duo of Nini Fabi and Ben Gebert overcame a split with both their record label and former band members to release their sophomore album, New Compassion, last fall. With the rocky road it took to get where they are now, it makes sense that the new record shows a softer side to Haerts, and that Fabi refers to the title track as the band’s “peace song.”

The eight-song set Haerts brought to World Cafe Live today only emphasized this shift in style; the intimate, dimly-lit settin allowing the thoughtful lyricism at the core of songs like “Sign” and “Your Love” to shine. They also took a look at their past, revisiting one of the first songs they wrote together, “Hope,” over a decade ago. This gave Fabi the perfect opportunity to share the story of the duo’s first trip to World Cafe Live, for a competition about 10 years ago that they lost — mostly because no one in Philly knew them. That’s not a problem for Haerts anymore. Not only were they met by an enthusiastic crowd today, but their growth shows through even further in the forward leap they’ve taken with their songwriting.

New Compassion is out now. See photos from today’s set below.