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Juan Huevos + Holy Ghost Tent Revival + Toubab Krewe + Temperance League + Moenda

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Tift Merritt

Finds Inspiration In Her Roots

Double Negative

Unleash a Middle Age Riot

The Love Language

Stu McLamb Steers the Chaos Cycle Issue #8


10324 Wilson Boulevard, Blythewood, SC  803.754.0063

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04 Juan Huevos 05 Andrew Weathers & Moenda 06 Holy Ghost Tent Revival 07 Valley Maker & Jon Lindsay 08 Temperance League 09 Toubab Krewe 10 SCENE REPORT: Columbia 12 Double negative 20 Tift Merritt 23 On The Rags 24 LEAD REVIEW: LOVE GONE RIGHT & WRONG 25 Reviews

The Love Language 16 Publisher Brian Cullinan Editor In Chief John Schacht Assistant Editor Bryan Reed Design Gurus Taylor Smith Patrick Willett Sales Vance Carlisle James Wallace Website CJ Toscano

Shuffle Magazine P.O. Box 1777 Charlotte, N.C. 28224 shufflemag.com 704.837.2024 All content © 2010 Shuffle Magazine

Contributing Writers Rick Cornell Grayson Currin Timothy C. Davis Inzs Fonseca Hank Garfield Corbie Hill Topher Manilla JG Mellor Fred Mills William Morris Chris Parker Chris Powell Jesse Steichen Patrick Wall W.T. Wilson

Contributing Photographers Daniel Coston Shane Cudahy Danin Drahos Angela Owens

Phil Moore of Bowerbirds enchants a sunset crowd at This Machine Kills Cancer, an all-day benefit held June 19 to support Future Kings of Nowhere frontman Shayne Miel as he battles cancer and kickstarts Friends With Benefits, a non-profit Miel and his wife founded to provide affordable supplemental health insurance to local musicians. More info: www.fwithb.org.

Interns Roberto Bolaño Aleksandar Hemon J.D. & J.K. & T.V. Dr. Jameson The Mingus Dark Roasts

ERRATA: In our previous issue, we identified Bill Withers’ home state as North Carolina. It’s not. He is from West Virginia, which everybody but us knew.

Cover photo: Jason Arthurs     This spread: Bryan Reed

Issue #8 Shuffle magazine is not responsible for your music tastes, just our own.


Juan Huevos Undressed and Having a Ball by Topher Manilla

Juan Huevos’ sometimes abrasive, selfeffacing dance-rap bangers are, like their creator, most often artistic contradictions. The 30-year-old Triangle artist, better known to his inner circle as J Waves, sees his art as if it’s some sort of living theatre, making a life — and some amazing songs — in the weird, underground crevices of hip-hop.   Half Andy Kaufman, half Sage Francis, half Of Montreal, half Kool Keith; yeah, 200 percent is about right, because 100 just doesn’t seem to do Huevos justice. His short-shorts and indie rock sampling have made it difficult for him to break out as a proper hip-hop artist. And his all-too-raw live show can be a little intimidating for the stoic, ironic backpacker-type. But Huevos — a party-rapper who gets a rise out of calling his style “date rap” — treads where the average hip-hop super-ego dares not go, to that battleground where shame and pride coexist, and where loneliness and bravado trade haymakers.   See, for instance, this line from “C-Section Baby,” cut from 2009’s Treasure Bath: “I gave my momma scars and I guess it was prophetic/Because now I have so many scars that it is pathetic.”   In fact, Juan Huevos (a pun and tribute to the testicle he lost to cancer) is attempting a feat unimaginable for hip-hop artists from Lil Wayne to the RZA: He’s dropping his weed habit.   “If I feel like I’m losing my mind, then the first thing I should do is go to the source and cut out the weed,” says Huevos, who seems already to have

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accepted this as a failed endeavor. “I do do a lot of drugs. But I have a lot of guilt. I can’t imagine other rappers struggling with this. I don’t think B Real is looking at himself in the mirror trying to stop smoking pot.”   On stage, Huevos is usually in his undies, muscle-bound and drenched in sweat, scarred, gristly, and glistening. If you’re thinking Marky Mark, you’re missing the point. This is more Iggy Pop — raw, real, alienating, but able to deliver a great party. In fact, Huevos recalls, following a basement show in Saint-Étienne, France, one ecstatic fan frantically shouted the lines, “Son of Iggy Pop! Son of Iggy Pop! Son of Iggy Pop!”   “That’s what I’m talking about. If I had peanut butter, I’d be smearing it on my chest,” Huevos says. He considers himself the pinnacle opening act for any major touring artist. “If people come not ready for a good time, I make everybody shed that shit. I mean, I’m in my underwear at 10:30, and that’s how the night goes from there.” That dynamic began with Huevos shucking his sweat-soaked shirts. “Then, I wanted to take something off besides my shirt, so I took off my pants,” he says.   But is there a fear that, like Iggy, a performance that was once raw and real inevitably evolves into schtick? Maybe, says Huevos.   “If anything, I’m a performer,” he says. “The banter in between my songs is just as important as the music I do. I don’t think people came to the

Photo by Sam Roberts

show because I’m a good songwriter. At my shows, people are going crazy for four or five different reasons.”   In conversation, Huevos is more Woody Allen than Iggy Pop: neurotic, apologetic and charming.   His sojourns across the globe in search of hip-hop brethren have found him taking his art to France, Belgium and Hungary. He’s found kindred spirits among South African MCs, sending rhymes across the globe for collaborations. Sometimes he forgets until the track pops up somewhere in the ethernet. But he usually finds a strange solitude in his rap travels. Much of his 6-week stint in Brussells was spent cooped up in an attic, watching reruns of “21 Jump Street” on YouTube.   “It helped, reminded me of my childhood. You’d be blown away by the guest appearances on ‘21 Jump Street’: Rosie Perez, Vince Vaughn, Jason Priestly, Bridget Fonda,” Huevos says, demonstrating the pop culture acumen required of any proper MC.   As the borders between indie rock and hiphop/R&B seem more porous with each passing day — Alicia Keys joining indie-prog band BLK JKS on stage at the World Cup; Beyoncé’s little sis covering Dirty Projectors; Jay-Z kicking it side stage at Grizzly Bear shows, etc. — perhaps Huevos’ crossover moment, big or small, is now.   “Yes, I want to be able to sing and make songs like Yeasayer,” Huevos says. “But I think I’m just a great rapper.” shuf8


Moenda More Than a Feeling by Bryan Reed “To quash any assumptions, there’s very little improvisation in what we do,” says Robin Doermann, one-fourth of Charlotte noisemakers Moenda. “Everything we do is very, very rigorously practiced.”  But you can be excused for assuming that Moenda’s work was the product of extemporaneous and intuitive collaboration.  Their songs might be meticulously revised and practiced before they’re revealed to an audience, but the process by which they’re created is definitely not about following a formula. “It’s very much looking for the feeling of what everyone else is saying,” says Steven Pilker, who along with Doermann provides the electronic sounds that create Moenda’s unique timbres.

 At first, they’d intended to find a way to breed dub with noise. But after assembling a score for Lawrence Jordan’s surrealist film Sophie’s Place, they decided, as Doermann puts it, “the dub-noise thing didn’t really work, but the noise thing worked.”  So the four set out to explore as many sounds as possible. Pilker brought a background of sequenced electronic music; Davey Blackburn had been developing a more soulful, tropical style of drumming; and guitarist Ross Wilbanks was experimenting with new styles of playing — including stringing his instrument partially with picture-hanging wire. “Davey’s always looking for a new rhythm, and we’re looking for new sounds,” says Wilbanks. “When we all like a sound that someone’s doing, it doesn’t sound like noise to us.”  Indeed, across a tape and a split 7-inch with

Photo by Jeremy Fisher free-form combo Great Architect, Moenda has made noise sound more like music. Their pieces embrace harsh tones, and defy structure, but they counter their out-minded tendencies with a mastery of fluctuating momentum. The pieces progress logically, if not uniformly.  “We really don’t recycle many ideas,” says Pilker. “It’s very inconvenient in that it doesn’t have a formula. But at the same time, it’s very rewarding because it doesn’t have a formula.”  That unpredictability is what fools so many people into thinking Moenda’s an improv act. The songs are born of the intuition and instrumental communication that improvisation requires. “You have to be pretty flexible when we’re writing things,” says Pilker.  Blackburn laughs, “I do a lot of stretching.” shuf8

Andrew Weathers Mood Music

Photo by Hannah Jones

by Corbie Hill Andrew Weathers is an optimist. And he makes pleasing, ethereal music for his kind. Sitting in Carrboro’s Open Eye Café, laughing among a small cloud of friends, he says he feels odd putting his own name on a T-shirt — this was easier when he performed as Pacific Before Tiger. His first thought: put his initials in the Van Halen logo. More laughter.  “I think a lot of people misunderstand,” the Greensboro-based Weathers explains, “that things are funny and fun even though you’re making music that’s pretty grave or serious.”  Weathers’ musical experiments trade in warm drones and slow, gentle builds. But he views his

work as accessible and non-threatening. “I didn’t want to be too monolithic, I guess, or too serious about it,” he says. “It is serious, but not exclusive or off-putting, like sometimes I think Eluvium or Sigur Rós is. [They’re] so epic. All the emotions in that music are so intense that it wipes out everything. Whereas I think what I made is more ambiguous.”  His latest record, A Great Southern City, was recorded in the doldrums of late summer, 2009. Weathers had just returned from Italy, and the bright sun and Southern heat infused the process. “It’s a hot, lethargic kind of album,” he says, “as opposed to a lot of things that are done that are kind of cold and wintry.”

 Carefully placed acoustic timbres and nonverbal shouts punctuate music that tended, in earlier treatments, towards obtuse soundscapes. For years Weathers’ live show found him alone with a red Gibson SG plugged into a laptop, where mysterious processes transformed the guitar’s sound into vague oceanic washes and slow swells. Now he’s grown up a bit, and with the help of his touring ensemble (a rotating cast of cellos, woodwinds, guitars, etc.) Weathers hopes to focus on the smaller emotions.  “I don’t go into a lot of my music trying to make ‘this is a song about being sad,’” he says. “It’s kind of like, ‘this is the mood,’ you know?” shuf8 shufflemag.com 5


Holy Ghost Tent Revival Honk If You’re Horny

Photo by flyingrooster.net

by Rick Cornell

God bless a horn. When the trumpet moves

seeing what might happen if we drank it all and

 Of course, even the good old times were

from supporting cast member to star of the

tried to record a few songs.”

tempered by the inevitable bad times. So Long

show in “Walking Over My Grave,” a swinging

 Montsinger, Martin and Murray are regularly

I Screamed also has its share of love-gone-

pop song bursting with gospel aspirations

joined by bassist Patrick Leslie, keyboardist

missing, best summed up by the painfully

from Holy Ghost Tent Revival’s debut So Long I

Mike O’Malley, trombone and euphonium

direct “Getting Over Your Love” and its closing

Screamed, it’s a genuine thrill. Hallelujah to the

player Hank Widmer, and new trumpet

plea: “But don’t, don’t you leave/Because you’re

trombone and the mighty euphonium, as well.

guy Charlie Humphrey. And on the EP, an

all I want and all I need.” Luckily, a righteous

The Greensboro septet’s got those too. But at

assorted gathering of friends, adopting the

ruckus — the kind made by banjo and guitar

the heart of Holy Ghost Tent Revival is a banjo,

moniker The Lovely Hot Starving Street Band,

and by pounding percussion and mood-lifting

courtesy of Stephen Murray, who cofounded the

massed in Carrboro to aid in the recording,

trumpet — can drown out the sounds of hearts

group with guitarist Matt Martin.

and presumably, the drinking. Perhaps not

and spirits being broken.

 The lively sounds come from seven guys

surprisingly, the highlight of the session is a

 All told, Holy Ghost Tent Revival’s approach

who make up for lack of certified experience

number called “Alcohol,” a lament that lands

brings to mind the free-range roots and vocal

— Murray is the only original Revivalist to

between honky tonk and the Hot Club. A close

roulette of the Gourds and the Felice Brothers

have been in a previous band — with a deep

second is the old-fashioned soul duet “Under

— not to mention the outfit whose spirit can be

love for music from a variety of angles and

Your Fingers,” which comes off like Peggy Scott

so easily detected in that pair’s DNA, The Band.

ages. Backgrounds and affections range from

and JoJo Benson after, well, a roomful of beer.

Montsinger is pleased to hear that.

ska, jazz, and hip-hop to the Beatles, Django

 Clearly, Holy Ghost Tent Revival is, as a

 “Over the past year, mainly since reading

Reinhardt, and Neil Young. But what ultimately

defining trait, a band under many influences.

Levon Helm’s biography, This Wheel’s on

emerges from the tent doesn’t sound much

“Surely we would not be making the music we

Fire, The Band has become one of our biggest

like any of those. That’s part of the appeal, this

are without the influences that have come about

influences, so we’re incredibly flattered and

infectious racket that’s a glorious sum of so

over the past 50 years,” Montsinger says. “It

somewhat surprised when that connection is

many disparate parts, as is the party-on-stage

would be fascinating to know what creativity

made.”

energy of the band’s live performances.

was like in a time when it was not such a

 For his part, O’Malley is quick to recite

 Holy Ghost Tent Revival tapped into that

struggle to do something original.” To that end,

his favorite comparison, offered by a kind

boozy, celebratory vibe for its second release,

So Long I Screamed is full of vintage-sounding

gentleman from Blacksburg, Virginia: “Ya’ll

a six-pack EP titled Family. “Our friend Jonny

but freshly pressed rags and swing tunes, and

sound like Doc Watson and John Lennon

(Tunnell) from Trekky Records had a studio the

hybrids of joyously indeterminate origin, all

makin’ sweet love.”

size of a bedroom,” explains percussionist Ross

presented with thrashy purpose and all due

 While, of course, being serenaded by horns.

Montsinger. “We bought approximately enough

respect.

Can’t forget those horns. shuf8

beer to fill said room and spent three days

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Valley Maker The Genesis Project

Photo by Patrick Wall

by Patrick Wall Though it’s based on The Book of Genesis, Austin Crane maintains that Valley Maker, his first record under the pseudonym of the same name, isn’t a Biblical record — at least not in the way you’d think.  “This isn’t a project of theological exegesis,” Crane says. “[Genesis] is an extremely beautiful, violent, creative, destructive, deceptive, loving book. It has all these different attributes, which are a lot of the things that define us as human.”  The Columbia-based singer-songwriter has peppered his songs with Biblical allusions before. His two solid sets of songs, 2007’s I Know My Hands and 2009’s Place at the Table, released under his own name, mostly eschew proselytizing for ruminations

on life, death and faith more in line with David Bazan/Pedro the Lion-like soul searching than Contemporary Christian sermonizing.  Valley Maker treats Genesis not as holy tome but as a collection of character studies, from feuding brothers Cain and Abel to trickster Jacob. Compellingly, Crane mulls the motives of creator and creation, questioning God’s judgment and the idea in general. “Babel,” for instance, doesn’t just damn the builders of the Babylonian tower dedicated to the glory of man, it damns God for destroying it as well. Fittingly, the songs are simple and melody-driven, Crane’s guitar and occasional percussion arrives accented by the harmonies of Amy Godwin.

Jon Lindsay Escape Artist by Chris Parker Jon Lindsay turns escape into a coming-out party with his full-length debut, Escape from PlazaMidwood. Last year’s five-track lo-fi EP, Magic Winter & the Dirty South, was merely an appetizer for Plaza-Midwood’s 15-song smorgasbord. It’s a blend of pop glyphs — baroque, psych, jangle, indie and power pop — suffused with the lush melodicism of Brill Building arrangements.  Before striking out on his own, Lindsay helmed a variety of bands including, most recently, the Young Sons, until their 2008 breakup. (He also cofronts the Catch Fire with ex-Jolene member Mike Mitschele.) He plays nearly all the instruments on his latest, which he co-produced with Chris Waldorf (Sea of Cortez,), who also contributes drums.

 “This is an old school solo record that’s big, dynamic and going for a lot of different things,” Lindsay offers. “Any good song will hold up on an acoustic guitar. So I wasn’t worried, if we wanted to throw the kitchen sink at a song, how we’re going to pull it off live.”  The album’s populated by clever songs fueled by equally sharp hooks. It ranges from Beck-ish electro-pop on “Indie Prince Paul” and the quirky new wave/garage love song “The Launch Codes,” to the biting, autobiographical Randy Newmanstyle piano paean, “Thinly Veiled References.” The album’s title refers to the Charlotte neighborhood where Lindsay lives, though it also references the failed suburb near UNCC where he first grew up,

 In the end, though, it’s the narratives that leave the biggest impression by raising intriguing questions: What kind of legacy does that book leave? Who put these events in motion? What were the first people like? What were their familial relationships like? What was created and destroyed? Just what constitutes fair?  “That’s the purpose of Genesis as a narrative,” he says. “I wanted to explore those ideas in songs.”  Crane doesn’t answer any of these thorny questions, either. Since the songs on Valley Maker are neither strict retellings nor literal translations, they, like the stories they’re based on, are open to interpretation.  “Let’s let the book speak for itself,” Crane says. “Let’s see what’s in it.” shuf8

Photo by Carolyn Clemans both of which stir feelings of ambivalence.  “You love it and at the same time it’s smothering you, but you can’t leave and you don’t want to,” he says. “It has to do with longing for a sense of place. That old neighborhood, honestly, only exists in my imagination now. It’s a metaphorical place that’s totally turned into to this cliché Hill Valley, like from Back to the Future.”  Lindsay, who also backs Benji Hughes in his spare time, has started tracking his next album, tentatively titled, The Summer Wilderness Program. He also enlisted Chapel Hill’s The Tomahawks to bring his music to the stage and, frequently, reinterpret it.  “There’s stuff that we like to get into that’s not summery jangle, but dark. Still hooky and catchy but not quite as sunny,” he warns. shuf8 shufflemag.com 7


Temperance League Working Class Heroes

Photo by Shane Cudahy

by John Schacht

“I’m a working guy,” Bruce Hazel says. “I

back to Charlotte, where he waited just enough

checked the time on the clock, I know it’s not in

still get my ass up every day and work at the

tables until he could head out for another week

my favor, but it ain’t gonna stop.”

restaurant to pay my bills, because rock & roll

or two of solo gigs.

 They’ve already run up and down the Eastern

never has.”

 “It’s a horrible thing to say when you first

seaboard and made inroads into the Triangle –

 For most musicians, making bank is last

come to a town, but I had my sights set on

not always a given for Charlotte bands. Hazel’s

on the list of Reasons to Rock — like it or not.

being in a bigger city,” he concedes. That

aware of the (largely one-way) rivalry between

They do it for the music, the camaraderie, the

changed when Hazel integrated into the local

regions, but says years of taking diners’ orders

hook-ups, the free beer — it’s a rush that’s hard

music scene, primarily through the annual

and paying music dues has taught him that

to kick. And sometimes those who keep at it

Fool’s Brigade benefits he’s put together since

nothing justifies behaving like the rock & roll

discover that with age comes a distillation of

2004. Out of the yearly month-long rehearsals

world owes you anything. “You can act like a

purpose and a deeper well of experience to

for the tribute-themed shows, Hazel found like-

prick and treat everybody like an asshole and

write from.

minded musicians among the throngs of local

have a chip on your shoulder,” he says. “Or just

 Like most of his mates in Charlotte’s

bands that participate.

be a nice guy.“

Temperance League, Hazel, the quintet’s

 But despite various projects (most gathered

 But not too nice. The band recorded songs

38-year-old front man and chief songwriter,

under the apropos umbrella Bruce Hazel &

last Fall, but weren’t satisfied with those takes.

now has a rock & roll résumé that stretches

Some Volunteers), he couldn’t shake the feeling

Too clean. Not rough enough. “Too nice,” Shawn

over two decades. The former Philly native and

that he was “floundering” until 2009. That’s

Lynch says with distaste. What they want, they

Jersey school kid moved to the Queen City his

when the current five-piece emerged, united

say, is to capture the raw energy of their live

senior year in high school, but honed his craft

by a love of no-frills rock and a “last guys

show. Following Hazel’s manic, all-or-nothing

on stages from Boston and Milwaukee to L.A.

standing” mentality.

lead, Temperance League shows teeter on

It was there, during the O.J.-trial era, that Hazel

 With an age range from mid-30s to late 40s,

drunken chaos, and occasionally spill over.

played the Sunday-midnight slot downstairs

guitarist Shawn Lynch, bassist Mark Lynch (no

 At a recent Baltimore gig, a hammered Hazel

at the Coconut Teaszer, located in the heart of

relation), drummer David Kim, and guitarist

stood on patrons’ tables knocking over drinks

Hair Metal land on Sunset Boulevard.

Chad Wilson are veterans of a Who’s Who

(“They bought us shots later,” Lynch marvels)

 But in that basement venue, run by the

list of current and former Charlotte-based

before winding up prone on the floor screaming

owner’s ex-Playboy Playmate wife, Hazel

acts, including Benji Hughes, Lou Ford, David

into the mic, Lynch’s foot pinning him there

learned that you have to punch the rock & roll

Childers, Les Dirt Clods, the Fence Lions, and

almost as a safety measure.

clock, too. “It was like a comedian working

Buschovski, among others. While younger

 “These guys helped me fall in love with rock

out his 10 minutes,” he says, laughing at the

rockers may impress with a hunger for success,

& roll again, the stuff I grew up on,” Hazel says.

memory of playing to crowds consisting

this band is powered by something maybe

“Even if I wasn’t in a band with these guys I’d

entirely of other musicians. “I took the gig to

even more urgent, and you can hear it in their

be barbecuing with them on the weekends. But

try and challenge myself and become a real

MC5/Byrds/Springsteen-steeped mix. As Hazel

why not do this instead?” shuf8

songwriter.” That work ethic followed him

sings on one cut, “I was just about to give up, I

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Toubab Krewe Casting Spells with Polyglot Rock by Fred Mills

There’s something to be said for selling out in your own town. Especially when you’re talking a major venue like Asheville’s Orange Peel (capacity: 1050). Big-time acts like the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Kings Of Leon and Avett Brothers routinely pack the Peel, but on this particular steamy June evening it’s local worldbeat instrumental quintet Toubab Krewe who’ve got a full house teetering on the precipice of total ecstasy; we’re talking arms-in-the-air, speaking-in-tongues territory. Even the band members are glancing at each other with WTF? looks on their faces.  “Yeah, I remember looking at my watch and we’d been playing for two hours straight — and then we did a couple of encores! That show, man, we really stretched out!”  It’s a couple of days after the Orange Peel show, and there’s a genuine note of awe in percussionist Luke Quaranta’s voice as he recounts his band’s arc since forming a little over 5 years ago. Toubab Krewe’s first gig was in late 2004 at a tiny Asheville tapas bar; 15 people showed up. “But it was funny,” says Quaranta. “Word spread, and by the time we were done playing, maybe another 25 or 30 people had crammed into that little space.”  Clearly, a foreshadowing. The improv-based Toubab Krewe sound is rooted in West African musics but incorporates New Orleans funk, Jamaican dub, psychedelic 60s surf and more. These guys have done their homework, and they’ve even studied with some true masters; but they’re not trying to recreate anything or land a spot on a Putumayo compilation for Starbucks. Their polyglot style pushes

the envelope (and seriously kicks ass), and it’s earned the respect of such African artists as Toumani Diabate, Bassekou Kouyati and Tinariwen while making them a fave on the festival circuit.  In a sense, the Krewe — Quaranta, guitarist Drew Heller, guitar/kora/kamel ngoni player Justin Perkins, bassist David Pransky, drummer Teal Brown — was pre-ordained. They had all played with one another in various earlier combos, so in 2004 when Heller and Perkins returned home from an extended sabbatical in Mali, jazzed from seeing indigenous music up close, a marriage of the traditional and the contemporary seemed both doable and timely, given the growing acceptance of African styles on these shores (thanks to reissues, U.S. groups like Antibalas and Extra Golden, and of course the prominence of Fela Kuti, Ali Farka Toure and progeny).  Recalls Quaranta, “It wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice to integrate certain influences — it was just, ‘let’s sit down and play.’ A lot of what first came out was reworked traditionals, and on our first album [2005’s Toubab Krewe], nine out of ten songs are traditionals. But we felt free to take creative license, staying true to the form but letting it fly, bringing in rock, blues, hip-hop, anything we grew up with.”  That’s for sure. On 2008’s Live at the Orange Peel, not only was there a blistering surfingto-Mali psych number called “Buncombe to Badala” but also a couple of spoken-word interludes courtesy the Last Poets’ Umar Bin Hassan. Meanwhile, at the recent Asheville show, the band folded blues chestnut “Good

Photo by Jaime Pransky

Morning Little Schoolgirl” into original “Roy Forester,” and worked up an old Appalachian folk tune called “Cluck Old Hen.”  Such experimentation’s not limited to the stage. Last fall the band cut tracks for their third album at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios. The intention, says Quaranta, was to “start from scratch” (as opposed to road-tested material), additionally employing instrumentation they don’t normally use in concert, such as 12-string acoustic, grand piano and Moog Voyager. “We spent the first week just experimenting with sound, then [wrote] music from those stream of consciousness jamming sessions. I think we got very close to the moment of inspiration, the seed of the idea.” He adds that they’ve been shopping the album and hope to have it out by September.  The obvious question, then: Do five white guys from the mountains of North Carolina ever get accused of being cultural interlopers?  Quaranta laughs; he’s heard that one before.  “Not just N.C. — I don’t know if there are any other groups anywhere that have a fusion exactly like [ours]! But when we played the Festival In The Desert [in Mali, 2007], we had the opportunity to get really good feedback and to see some of these artists that we’d been following for so long. I got the impression that they really appreciated the creative license we’re exercising with the traditional music. And they encouraged us to keep doing it — keep exploring the spaces in between worlds and cultures.” shuf8

shufflemag.com 9


Columbia Scene Report By Patrick Wall

Jay Matheson’s first professional recording was for long-gone Columbia rockabilly act General Jack and the Grease Guns. It was bare-bones: Matheson recorded the band with little more than a four-track reel-to-reel recorder and a mixing board. He charged the band $40.  Nowadays, Matheson charges a bit more for his time. What started in a tiny storefront on the outskirts of downtown Columbia and gestated in a storage facility just south of the University of South Carolina campus, The Jam Room has become legendary in and beyond Columbia, with an impressive client list of local and national bands. Its gear list — from top-shelf preamps to the massive wall of Orange, Krank, Mesa, Marshall and Peavey amps — is state of the art, and has drawn out-of-town guests including Band of Horses and Outkast’s Big Boi.  But The Jam Room’s bread and butter has always been heavier bands; Matheson says his studio first got noticed after recording legendary underground heavies like Antischism, In/Humanity, The Queers, Stretch Arm Strong and Initial State. In fact, The Jam Room has become the go-to recording spot for the Southeast’s biggest, boldest, loudest and heaviest bands. Rock Hill’s SLED recorded there, and so have Death Becomes Even the Maiden, BraveYoung, Thank God, and many more regional punk and metal acts.  The most recent big-name heavy to record there is the burly Savannah quintet Kylesa, currently at work on its fifth full-length. (One cut, Matheson jokes, has 74 tracks before vocals.) The band has recorded most of its albums there, including its critically acclaimed Time Will Fuse Its Worth.  “We’ve been working with Jay and [Jam Room engineer] Steve [Slavich] for years,” says Kylesa guitarist Laura Pleasants. “We’re comfortable with them personally and creatively.”

10 shuffle eight Scene Report

 Kylesa axe-man Phillip Cope has been recording at The Jam Room since his days in Damad, and thinks highly enough of the studio to recommend it to other acts. Indeed, Matheson jokes, many of The Jam Room’s higher-profile clients — including Baroness, Fight Amp, Wizard, Dark Castle and Withered — have come on Cope’s recommendation.  “The studio has a great vibe,” Cope says. “I won’t go anywhere else. I’m comfortable with it here. Jay and Steve and [engineer] Zac [Thomas], they’re all great. They’re hardworking, and they’re very creative as well.”  Then again, maybe it’s just that tempting wall of amps.  “That’s really important, too,” Pleasants laughs. “Jay’s got so many freaking amps. It’s a guitar player’s dream.” • • • Sweaty and looking downright exhausted, Chaz Bundick plops down by the merch table at the front of the New Brookland Tavern. “It’s good to be home,” he says, cracking a weary grin. He means it: The June 11 show at the Tavern, the first official hometown Toro Y Moi show in more than a year, marked the last of a six-week stretch of tour dates, most of them with electronic dream-pop act Caribou. Bundick is Columbia’s most visible musical export in years, and since releasing Causers of This, a beautiful mess of atmospheric pop, back in February, Bundick’s been on the road more often than not. The Caribou tour came shortly after a five-week jaunt with Islands, and, at the beginning of July, Bundick jets to Europe for a month’s worth of shows with fellow glo-fi all-star Washed Out. Then, Bundick returns to Columbia, but only briefly; he’ll tour with Gallic pop outfit Phoenix in mid-August. Then maybe he’ll get the chance to chill out at home. • • •

Photo by Danin Drahos

The Township Auditorium, a historic Columbia venue (it’s on the National Register of Historic Places), recently reopened following a year-long, multimilliondollar renovation project. The upgrades included a state-of-the-art sound system, new performer dressing rooms, and a muchneeded expansion of the load-in areas. The hope is that the $12 million in renovations will attract more star power to the 3,000 seat venue. The Township isn’t the only local venue boasting new equipment: Venerable West Columbia rock club New Brookland Tavern recently upgraded its sound system, and house engineer John Albrecht says an overhaul of the lighting rig is forthcoming. Art Bar, too, recently improved its house board and stage. • • • After spreading the gospel of its spastic, kinetic smart-core over a smattering of 7-inches, SXSW appearances and Southeastern tours, Thank God finally released its first proper full-length, Ice/Age, in June on Philadelphia-based punk label Exotic Fever Records. • • • Dispatches from the D.I.Y. scene: Bedroom label Fork and Spoon Records has been active lately, putting out vinyl releases from synth-rock band No Way Jose! and blooze-rock barn burners Mercy Mercy Me. Local emcee Preach Jacobs and folk-punk frontman Travis Bland have started Sounds Familiar Records, named after the nowdefunct record store where they worked. Jack Beasley, owner of The Mill, has been working on the inaugural release from brand new neosoul act Day Clean, which features members of the outstanding local hip-hop crew The Elements. Patrick Wall is Music Editor of Columbia’s alternative weekly, Free Times


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ColumbiA, SC 1. Scratch n Spin scratchnspin.com 513 12th Street West Columbia, SC 29169 803.794.8888 2. New Brookland Tavern newbrooklandtavern.com 122 State Street West Columbia, SC 29169 803.791.4413 Columbia’s oldest continually running music club is also the only club in town that hosts live music seven nights a week. 3. Art Bar artbarsc.com 1211 Park Street Columbia, SC 29201 803.929.0198 A rock club on Saturdays and a dance club the rest of the week, Art Bar offers an eclectic mix of everything from geek to chic. 4. The White Mule thewhitemule.com 1530 Main Street Columbia, SC 29201 803.661.8199 5. The Whig thewhig.org 1200 Main Street Columbia, SC 29201 803.931.8852 A little slice of Brooklyn hip in red-state South Carolina, this subterranean oasis hosts occasional shows, but its reputation is as a hangout for musicians and hipsters alike.

6. Nickelodeon Theatre nickelodeon.org 937 Main Street Columbia, SC 29201 803.254.3433 7. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery huntergathererbrewery.com 900 Main Street Columbia, SC 29201 803.748.0540

10. Pack Rats packratsshop.blogspot.com 2009 Greene Street, #114 Columbia, SC 29205 803.765.0060 A vintage and handmade shop located in the heart of Five Points. Paperback books, clothing, skateboards, office curios and home tchotchkes - you can even consign your music or independent film.

14. The Jam Room jamroomstudio.com 201 South Prospect Street Columbia, SC 29205 803.787.6908 See Columbia Scene Report on previous page.

15. Devine Street Tattoo myspace.com/ devinestreettattoo 4451 Devine Street 11. Papa Jazz Columbia, SC 29205 8. Cool Beans Coffee papajazz.com 803.782.0753 Company 2014 Greene Street Gearing up for an expansion, 1217 College Street Columbia, SC 29205 the staple ink shop seems to be Columbia, SC 29201 803.256.0095 reaping the benefits of this year’s 803.779.4277 Internationally known record relaxing of South Carolina’s The homey, multi-level café store with a reputation for avant- tattoo laws — now the 18-plus includes regular house blends garde jazz and hard-to-find vinyl. crowd can get needled without a and the usual smorgasbord Also carries a large selection of parental co-sign. of fancy coffee drinks, as well new and used discs. as specialty sandwiches and 16. Smoke desserts. Free Wi-fi, book 12. Sid and Nancy eatsmoke.com borrower’s library, chessboards sidandnancy5pts.com 10324 Wilson Boulevard etc., and reasonably priced 743 Saluda Avenue Blythewood, SC 29016 coffee. Columbia, SC 29205 803.754.0063 803.779.6454 Smoky barbecue. Local produce. 9. The f-stop Offering hip, new and recycled Craft beer. Good tunes. Not fstopcamerashop.com clothing for both guys and too much else to ask from a 936 Harden Street girls, along with new jewelry, meat shack. The family-friendly Columbia, SC 29205 accessories, funky furniture and environment and regular stops 803.771.2732 home decor. Bonus: free book from solid Americana acts only A camera shop dedicated exchange. Cash or trade for serve to highlight Smoke’s blend to the idea that there are no acceptable items. of Carolina barbecue and Cajun obsolete cameras (they do flavors. digital, too). They even offer a 13. Goatfeathers public darkroom, fully equipped myspace.com/goatfeathers lighting studio, inexpensive 2017 Devine Street equipment and fun, cheap Columbia, SC 29205 classes for all experience levels. 803.256.3325

Shuffle’s Cola Picks Sites & Blogs: • The Greater Columbia Society for the Preservation of Soul myspace.com/gcsps • Columbia Beet thecolumbiabeet.blogspot. com • Fork & Spoon Records forkandspoonrecords.net • Outerground Railroad outergroundrailroad.blogspot. com • Scene SC scenesc.com Dial It In: WUSC-FM (90.5) wusc.sc.edu is a free-format college-radio station that frequently hosts national and regional touring artists for interviews. There’s a weekly locals-only show hosted by Shuffle contributor Patrick Wall, who spins unsigned local and regional artists playing in Columbia that week.

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Rise Above Hardcore titans Double Negative reclaim momentum with their long-delayed but worth-the-wait sophomore LP, Daydream Nation By Bryan Reed

12 shuffle eight Double Negative

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n a Sunday night in April of 2006, Raleigh hardcore band Double Negative played its third-ever show at King’s Barcade, opening for then up-and-coming metal bands Baroness and Municipal Waste.  Their hardcore hurricane was over in a half hour, but the stage was left in ruins — tipped monitors, mic stands scattered across the floor. As I recall, not many people saw the set.  With one key difference, when Double Negative plays these days, it’s more or less the same. The sets are short and furious. By the end of it, the stage is a crater. Now, however, there’s always an audience.  A year after the King’s show, Double Negative had already been praised by regional press as one of hardcore’s best bands. Double Negative is far from the first or last hardcore band in Raleigh. But their very existence seemed to signify something bigger, like the white-hot reception from the underground faithful was indicative of a new scene.


When Double Negative set out to make its first record, The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative, the results were as fast and predictable as a reflex. They spent two days recording and three days mixing the record at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond, Va. No Way Records, a sturdy Virginiabased punk label, released it shortly thereafter. Within days, the first pressing was sold out.  That was in 2007, before the three-year saga of ill-fitting studio sessions and theft held off Daydream Nation, the band’s standardsetting sophomore LP.  But as this summer’s heat settles into Raleigh for an extended stay, the record finally nears its release. In the air-conditioned comfort of their Capital Boulevard practice space, the four members of Double Negative — vocalist Kevin Collins, guitarist Scott Williams, bassist Justin Gray and drummer Brian Walsby — finish each other’s sentences, joke about the music they love and share a celebratory bowl as their latest achievement comes roaring out of the resident boombox.  Finally.  “It still sounds like the same four people playing it, but the field is a lot wider,” Walsby remarks. “I’m pretty happy that there’s a lot of kind of fucked-up sounding stuff in it.”  Daydream Nation builds upon the foundations laid down by The Wonderful And Frightening World and its subsequent Raw Energy EP 7-inch. The first LP was an 18-minute sprint, flayed with harsh noise and unrelenting speed. Where the Raw Energy EP found the band contrasting painfully taut restraint with lunges of eyeblink-fast and grease-burn-severe punk rage, Daydream Nation does both, and more.  And it ought to; it represents three years in the evolution of Double Negative. The turmoil and obstacles that derailed the band’s recording schedules also proved an opportunity to refine exactly what Double Negative does.  Recording for the album started two years ago, with Corrosion of Conformity’s Mike Dean in the producer’s chair. But the sessions were scrapped save for two songs — re-recorded versions of the Raw Energy EP’s two B-side tracks —released by Volcom Ent. on a limited 7-inch split with N.Y. thrashers Battletorn. “We didn’t make our intentions understandable,” Williams says. “I don’t think we conveyed ourselves properly to him. It was kind of doomed from the beginning.”  The band and producer were, as Walsby phrases it, speaking different languages. The result was a cleanersounding Double Negative than the band was happy with.  “Mike knows his shit,” Gray explains, laughing. “But we’re trying to say, ‘We want it to sound like a sledgehammer, not a chainsaw,’

Left: Photo by Rob Davis This Page: Photo by Angela Owens

and he’d be like, ‘Do you want the impedance this way?’ ”  Two thousand dollars later, the band left the studio, opting to record in their practice space with help and a borrowed portable digital studio from friend Jennifer Thomas. All told, says Williams, “This record cost us, like, a couple joints, maybe a couple Vicodin, and then $130. But really, this record cost us that, plus $2,000.”  Gray responds wryly, “We did a $2,000 demo for a $130 record.”  Given the freedom — both in time and in Thomas’ hands-off production approach — to work and re-work their songs, the foursome was finally getting work done. The second phase of Daydream Nation’s creation moved more quickly. The band had a producer who understood its vernacular and encouraged its search for the right sound.  Thomas left the portable studio — which Williams says also contained hundreds of hours of various artists’ material — with the band so they could continue recording while she went out of town. Then somebody broke into the practice space. The thief left the stacks of amps, emblazoned with Double Negative’s logo in spray paint. They left Walsby’s drum kit. They left the mini-fridge and the boombox, and ignored the wall-to-wall gig posters. But they took the recording unit, and with it, almost all of Daydream Nation.  The nearly completed album, except for a few rough mixes that had made their way to a CD-R, was gone forever. Double Negative was no closer to releasing its second LP than it was two years before.  And with Thomas’ equipment gone, Will Evans — a local

producer and member of Raleigh punk upstarts Whatever Brains — became Daydream Nation’s third producer. They cut the remainder of the album during sessions at both Double Negative’s practice space and Evans’ Aleph Audio studio. Greg »

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Elkins mastered the record at his Desolation Row studio in Raleigh. “He turned the non-suck button on,” laughs Williams.  Midway through the process, No Way Records, which funded The Wonderful and Frightening World of Double Negative and was doing the same for Daydream Nation, sold the unfinished record to Daniel Lupton and Sorry State Records, a small but strong N.C. punk label. Lupton bought the record unheard, trusting Double Negative’s perfectionist tendencies to eventually return a quality album.  He was also willing to indulge the band’s knack for distinctive visuals. He’d already let the band print Raw Energy on clear vinyl, with a metallic fold-out cover and a perforated logo for easier spray painting.  “We just kinda told him, ‘If we make the recording costs nothing, can we spend every penny you were going to spend on the cover?’” says Gray. “He (Lupton) was just like, ‘Yeah. Of course. That’d be great.’ ”  Williams’ eyes widen as he describes the packaging they have in mind for the new LP. It’ll be pressed on pink vinyl with liner notes printed in pink against a deep blue background. The reflective silver outer sleeve will feature embossed lettering and Double Negative’s iconic logo — described by Rich Ivey in the Independent Weekly as “Swans-meets-the-Third Reich” — emblazoned in electric pink on the face of it all.  That logo has become something of a symbol for Double Negative’s whole character: deliberate, singular, and militaristically direct. Before the band even started, Williams says, “I knew exactly what the symbol was going to be.” The point was to elicit immediate recognition, something as striking and simple as those of their hardcore forbears: Black Flag’s bars or Crass’ authoritarian mash-up.  “We wanted kids to be able to spray paint it on their schools in two seconds and get away,” Gray says.  It’s also one more indication of Double Negative’s affection for vinyl. “Records are forever.” Williams says.  Their affection for the form is evident in the way they reference their own music. My Bloody Valentine, Confessor and T. Rex all enter the conversation long before The Dead Kennedys or Slayer (“right up there with Woody Guthrie,” swears Williams). Even if it’s not always apparent, Walsby says, “Everything we’re stealing is definitely from 25-30 years of just listening to all kinds of music.”  In his younger days, Walsby manned the kit for Mac McCaughan’s pre-Superchunk outfit Wwax, and Ryan Adams’ pre-Whiskeytown ensemble The Patty Duke Syndrome. Collins fronted the stillrevered, and recently reunited, Merge band Erectus Monotone. The band’s cross-genre credibility is solidified, but Double Negative is decidedly hardcore — at least in the minds of its fans.  “I think we delude ourselves in Double Negative,” says Williams, clad in a well-worn Darkthrone T-shirt. “We’re thinking, like, ‘Oh, this one part’s just total shoegazer, it sounds like fuckin’ Ride meets Lush,’ and we play it for somebody and it’s just, ‘I don’t hear it.’ ”  But Double Negative’s dedication to artifact is just as character-

14 shuffle eight Double Negative

defining. Double Negative’s brazen iconography is an instant ID to record browsers. To those unfamiliar with the band, its stark, impactful presence offers intrigue. For those in the know, it’s as definitive as a Nike Swoosh.  “It’s very difficult — and infuriating — for me to look through a box of 7-inches and give up half way because I don’t know what bands I’m looking at,” says Gray. “I’ve never understood the idea of trying to disguise or hide your record.”  Deserving of its conspicuous cover art, there’s nothing hidden on Daydream Nation. While the recording is far from polished, each player gets his say. Collins’ vocals have never been more up front. Williams’ guitars are just as frantic and noise-blurred as ever, but he’s also put some of his most resounding riffs into this record. Walsby’s kit thunders, shifting direction like a tornado, plowing the band ahead of him. Gray balances Walsby’s pulse and Williams’ diversions, grounding the band like the chain keeping a Rottweiler at bay.  Three years provided time for the songs to be written, rewritten, tightened, condensed and eventually crammed into less than 30 minutes. But that’s just the way it works for this band. They don’t have patience for filler. “I put everything we ever recorded on one CD, and it’s 51 minutes,” Gray says.  “The trash pile’s a lot more full than the done pile.”  That’s why Double Negative so quickly endeared itself to the hardcore scene. An excellent LP followed a succession of excellent shows. The fans responded. Double Negative had to keep barreling forward. In 2008, they flew to England to play a 22-minute set at the Melvins-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties. Now, Walsby’s old bandmate Ryan Adams wants to put out a 7-inch. In the Fall, Double Negative is touring Europe.  Since that early show at King’s, the demand for Double Negative has continued to grow. No matter what obstacles the band, and the record, have faced, the strongest pressure has been to keep pushing forward.  “We were very lucky to have a very quick, positive response,” Gray says. “We’re easy quitters. We’ll quit at the drop of a hat. Luckily, we’ve had people stop us from doing it every time.” shuf8

Photo by Bryan Reed


The Whig

1200 Main Street Columbia, SC 29201 [803] 931 8852 thewhig.org


Chaos Control By Grayson Currin

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he first time Raleigh five-piece The Love Language played the songs from its second album, the soulful and swollen Libraries, it was a debut that seemed engineered for chaos — or entropy, at least. Less than three hours before show time, the band’s frontman and founder, Stu McLamb, sent an elliptical invitation to friends. “Mass text,” it read. “Love lang warehouse show tonight @ 324 dupont circle raleigh.”  It was the first Friday of March — a balmy hinge between the Tar Heel winter and spring, and a night where, thanks to the city’s monthly public art walk, every rock club, gallery and dive bar expected big crowds. A friend asked McLamb to play a small birthday party in an artist’s workshop that overlooks the capital’s downtown from a small residential bluff.  By 10 p.m., cars crammed into spaces that didn’t quite exist, and bikes rested against walls and street signs. Inside, people passed plastic cups and glass bottles, and pulled domestic tallboys from brown paper bags. Eventually, the band ambled to one end of the concrete-floored, block-walled warehouse, picked up instruments and started playing.  No fanfare or introductions were necessary. The people in attendance were among the city’s cognoscenti — friends of the band, friends of the celebrants, fixtures of the scene, all mingling in their respective circles. They understood what was happening.  But no one knew exactly how it would happen. Months before, The Love Language had been one of the tightest bands in town — a good-looking, model-ready six-piece, with two keyboardists, two guitarists and a rhythm section (with lots of tambourines, mind you) that pounded the songs like fists into faces or aches into hearts. Their harmonies were strong, and their image might have been stronger: handsome but hardscrabble indie dudes, flanked by dual gorgeous brunettes.  Depending on your perspective, though, the night’s show would

16 shuffle eight The Love Language

either be the first gig or the third rehearsal for this brand-new band. McLamb’s older brother, who had played second guitar in the first iteration, now towered above the drums. Bassist Justin Rodermond, who had managed McLamb’s old indie rock band The Capulets, drove down from D.C. to learn the songs three days before the warehouse gig. He hadn’t seen McLamb in years.  Maybe tonight would be a disaster. Maybe they wouldn’t make it off the nonexistent stage still a band.  But The Love Language — or, more specifically, McLamb — consistently turns inauspicious and even disastrous beginnings into unlikely successes. In 2007, police in the Raleigh suburb of Cary arrested him for getting too drunk and too aggressive. At 27, he moved back in with his parents and began cobbling together a self-made set of love-crushed, earnest demos that became The Love Language’s eponymous first album. A record deal, a booking agent and a wave of hype followed. McLamb formed a live band. Not long after signing to Merge Records, one of the biggest independent record labels in America, he fired it. He moved from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, cloistered himself inside a studio with producer B.J. Burton and, during the dead of winter of 2010, made Libraries — a record so summery, listening to it feels like a command to have more fun.  And that’s exactly how that night in the warehouse, when Libraries had its semi-public first dance, felt: The band missed some cues and the guitars — played now by Burton and McLamb — occasionally slipped from their shared parts. But the sound, loud and blustery, bounced off the surfaces as listeners whirled in front of the band and, occasionally, sashayed between the members. People, sweating, left less sober than they had arrived. It felt like a school’s spring informal, where the chaperones followed one another home, or at least to the next bar.  And the winter, finally, was over.


Stu McLamb turns would-be calamity into The Love Language’s success story

• • • Stu McLamb is skinny but not slight, with a chest a bit broader than the rest of his avian frame might suggest. Slight stubble generally shades and softens his tan face, a topographical contrast of a sharp nose and deep-set eyes. His straight brown hair flops carelessly onto his forehead, elevating an air of general insouciance. McLamb’s clothing rotation, for instance, seems to consist only of tattered, straight-legged jeans and cut-offs, coupled with chromatic, often-stained V-neck Ts and funny shirts he swipes from Missy Thangs, The Love Language’s keyboardist and, these days, McLamb’s roommate.  Don’t mistake this for carelessness: For someone whose story has so often seemed out of control, from the arrests and tape hiss to the lineup swaps and label switches, McLamb has both the mind — and the luck, it seems — for narratives. He’s brazenly selfaware, the rare subject who not only detects the possible angles that stories about his band might take but, without fail, articulates them and attempts to control them.  A week after Libraries was finished, he’d already decided his debut told a better story than the new one. “This one’s about a little more experimentation,” he reasoned. And at his suggestion, our third — and, eventually, only aborted — interview consisted of an all-night drinking binge with the entire band that was to end no sooner than the sun came up. “Everything, man, will be on the record,” he’d said, hinting at debauchery and drama. As with his generous, infectious tunes, McLamb likes tension, but it’s like he lives it only for the feeling of resolution.  “I wrote these songs close to here,” he offers from the passenger

photo by Jason Arthurs

seat of The Love Language’s white van on a Friday afternoon in Cary. Rodermond pulls into a convenience store to buy a round of 5-Hour energy shots. Inside, McLamb knows exactly where they’re kept. “It’ll be funny to think that, tonight, someone will be walking their dog in the neighborhood and they’ll hear these songs.”  Tonight is the latest in a string of happy Love Language happenstance. Several weeks ago, the planned opener for a pair of North Carolina dates in mid-sized amphitheaters by French poprock kings Phoenix canceled, leaving the promoter in a scramble for an act to take the warm-up slot. Less than 36 hours before the doors opened, The Love Language announced that they’d offer the international introductions.  This is the biggest show of McLamb’s life, and he is, of course, quick to offer a plot summary and analysis: Tonight, in downtown Raleigh, The Light Pines — a bass-heavy, angular outfit which summons a gray cloud for every one of The Love Language’s sunshine bursts — will headline the first night of a Drughorse Collective double-header. Half of The Light Pines, including frontman Josh Pope, were the other half of The Love Language until late last year. The Love Language played the last such Drughorse showcase. Six months ago, this would be a scheduling »

shufflemag.com 17


conflict. Now, it’s a shadow being cast.  “I’ve got the jitters. I never get the jitters,” McLamb says, opening the door of the band’s sparely stocked dressing room backstage at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. Generally smiling and calm, he’s visibly flustered now, running his hands through his hair and walking semi-circles with brisk steps. “I need another beer.”  Perhaps too well, McLamb knows that tonight’s show in Cary — with his friends, label heads and more than 4,000 strangers — might be a potent catalyst in his career, moving his music away from smaller stages like the one his exes are playing in downtown Raleigh (and one he’s often played) and to slots on marquee tours. Sitting among the rows of lockers that the North Carolina Symphony uses here, the band discusses its business and realizes that such change is already happening. After their manager and agent struggled to land a handful of shows in the Midwest, a quick East Coast run with the Glaswegians of Camera Obscura — coupled with these Phoenix shows in Cary and Charlotte — have helped them turn the corner. They’re trying to decide which shows to take.  McLamb, like the rest of the band he’s built for himself, is thoughtful and inquisitive. When he hears of an unfamiliar book or idea, he always asks for a little information. With Rodermond, backstage in Cary, he wanted to know more about peak oil; a month earlier with Thangs, in their shared practice space and bedroom, he wanted to know about whatever record it was she’d put on the turntable.  Concomitant with that approach, though, is McLamb’s strange mix of self-confidence and self-doubt: After a few half-hearted sessions with the old band, he was strong-willed enough to head to Raleigh and record with Burton, with whom he’d worked on a compilation of Triangle bands. Tonight, he admits that he regrets the way he handled the situation, initially sneaking into the studio like an unfaithful man seeking a mistress. And when the band he’d called his own for more than a year finally called it quits, he never offered the necessary closure or inspiration.

 “I don’t write songs, sitting on the edge of my bed with an acoustic, and come and show them to the band. ‘Oh, I’ve got these chords and a couple of lines,’ ” McLamb explains. “I do these demos that I orchestrate. I play the drums shitty, and the lyrics are last. I definitely know what I want. There was a gorgeous element to that first incarnation of the live band. But I had a hard time figuring out how to put it to tape. I felt like I could make a cohesive album by myself—like I did last time.”  But he didn’t know if he’d actually written the album yet. Unsure of the songs he’d demoed while living in Carrboro and Wilmington, McLamb hoped a move to Raleigh would inspire a few more possibilities for the big follow-up. He wasn’t sure these tunes were the right ones for the Merge debut. He’d started this band to distract himself from trouble while living at his parent’s house in Cary. Now, people had expectations.  “When BJ got to me, I was like, ‘Man, I got these tunes, but I don’t know if I like ’em all. I’m going to scrap a couple of these and write some shit,’ ” McLamb says. For all of McLamb’s wiry energy, Burton’s presence exudes a certain aloof, slightly goofy Zen, though he’s five years younger. Burton listened to the songs and had the nerve to tell the songwriter he was wrong — this was the batch. The tension of making Libraries now resolved, McLamb agrees.  In the end, Libraries isn’t a perfect record. It drags toward the middle, and its reliance on layers and density occasionally makes it languish with its own stylistic bravado. By and large, though, it’s exactly the record McLamb needed to make to prove that his debut — “You know that quote? ‘You have your whole life…,’ ” he says — wasn’t a farce or a fluke.  A handful of cuts — the nervy, name-calling kiss-off “Brittany’s Back” and the boisterous, smiling comeback “Heart to Tell” — feel smartly like refined leftovers from album one.  Every four tracks, though, McLamb shows that his intentions and capabilities outstrip simple, Phil Spector-sized

“I wanted to get away from thinking of myself as 18 shuffle eight The Love Language


pop. He wraps his best Morrissey croon around the alliteration and ambiguities of “Pedals,” the album’s feedback-and-organlaced gambit. “Wilmont,” the album’s penultimate and perfect anthem, builds through three distinct phases, culminating in a triumphant build and fade strong enough to blow back The Arcade Fire’s hair.  As any good storyteller would have it, McLamb recorded “Wilmont” partially on a cheap tape machine that belonged to his father in college. It clicks on at the song’s start and off at the end — a gesture of tension and the answer of resolution, bookending a proverb-rich song about the compromise of any real relationship. Ultimately, the heart does what it does. The head — or the bandleader — worries about the story later.  “You want me to haunt you/ but you’ve started sprouting your wings,” McLamb sings as the song glows and grows. He smiles as he sings the words, a snake with questionable intentions. “I could lie to love you, but my mockingbird’s gonna sing.” • • • “There might be some old friends here I haven’t seen in a while,” says Stu McLamb, peering through the front door of a Cary bar called Murph’s. He turns around and cocks his brow. “That OK?”  Of course it is: On the night McLamb got arrested in Cary — essentially, the night before he began trying to figure out his life via The Love Language — his evening started at Murph’s. He’d met someone here for beers and then reconvened with a liquor bottle at a nearby house. After the band’s biggest show yet, is there anywhere else to be?  McLamb had been coming here for years the night he got arrested. His first band played its first show here. Embarrassing photos in the women’s restroom offer the evidence. But it’s apparent tonight that he hasn’t been here often in the last several. As soon as he walks beneath the bar’s single sign — “PUB,” it reads, in those pale yellow letters often attached to the front of brick shopping centers, just like this one — and through the door,

he’s greeted by a chorus of familiarity and surprise. Four men in their 50s, all gathered around a pool table, look up and say hello. The bartender yells from his post.  A woman named Crystal leaps from her perch on a stool against the wall that divides the bar’s two rooms. They hug, and she tells him that she’s already marked July 17 on her calendar. That’s the day The Love Language will play its CD release party for Libraries 30 miles away, in Carrboro.  “We just played tonight, actually, down the street at the amphitheater,” McLamb offers, explaining that the band added the show at the last minute. “It was really fun.”  Indeed, the last time The Love Language played the songs from Libraries locally, McLamb had no need to be nervous, whether or not it was in front of a few thousand people. The guitars moved perfectly between riffs and textures, and Thangs — ebullient and bright behind two keyboards — thickened each chorus. Rodermond’s bass lines were tough and coiled, while Jordan McLamb’s drumming bore all the perfectly emphatic qualities of someone playing an instrument that’s not their first choice. In the crowd, a handful of people sang along to songs that weren’t yet released. People stared at the band curiously, as though it were their first time hearing their neighbors. Most clapped politely. Some danced. Potential defeat, again, deferred to absolute victory.  “Honestly, to make that first record again, I need to hit rock bottom again and have to fight my way back to the top. That’s a beautiful thing, but I don’t want to live my life as an artist setting myself up for disaster,” he says. “This record is a result of a lot of positive situations. Merge liked it. Our booking agent got us on the road. I had some break-ups, but I wanted to get away from thinking of myself as a tortured artist. Because I wasn’t.”  And as if on cue from the director — happy and stable, at least for now, taking a swig from the night’s first Sierra Nevada — the lead riff of Collective Soul’s “Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down” blasts from Murph’s stereo. And, scene. shuf8

a tortured artist. Because I wasn’t.” –stu mclamb Left: Photo by Courtney Pierce/SXSW Center: Photo by Frank McMains Right: Photo by Frank McMains

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Home

Sweet World By JG Mellor Freed from past expectations, Tift Merritt returns to North Carolina to deliver her best work to date

20 shuffle eight Tift Merritt


T

ift Merritt may never become the world-conquering star she was once forecast to be. But the North Carolina expat has discovered that the world is a lot more inspiring when experienced on your own terms.  Critics are lauding Merritt’s fourth studio fulllength, See You On the Moon, as her best and most mature work yet. Much of that praise centers on Merritt’s return to the Triangle — and her choice of Durham’s Overdub Lane studio — for the recording sessions. And while old saws about home cooking and familiar stomping grounds apply, that’s just one piece of this record’s puzzle, and only one stop along Merritt’s ongoing journey.  “Making a record is always this balance between your home — where you live, musically and in your heart — and also making your world bigger by pushing to new places, literally and figuratively,” Merritt says.  Now more than a decade into her solo career, and having weathered both major label expectations and indifference during her tenure at Universal’s Lost Highway Records, Merritt’s made her world a lot bigger since her days fronting The Carbines and guestsinging on Two Dollar Pistols songs. She recorded her first three records in Los Angeles, now calls New York City home, and for See You on the Moon and 2008’s Another Country found inspiration while sequestered in Paris, sometimes for months at a time.  She’s also proven to be musically restless. Her 2002 debut, Bramble Rose, was her first of two Lost Highway releases and fit snugly with that label’s roots rock roster. The Americana crowd rejoiced at the prospect of another potential Emmylou Harris or Roseanne Cash, but Merritt was hardly done growing as a songwriter. Nor did she want to make the same record over and over. So she moved on to a brassy, Memphis soul-meets-Nashville twang effort with 2004’s Tambourine, backed by luminaries like the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and Maria McKee.  Despite heaps of critical kudos, record sales didn’t match the expectations brought by Tambourine’s Grammy Award nomination. Audience-size remained modest, and Merritt drifted into afterthought-status at Lost Highway. By her own accounts 2005 was a difficult, why-get-out-of-bed year during which she felt more “like a monkey than an artist,” as she later told the Independent Weekly. She even considered quitting the music business, but rebounded in a surprising way: a long-time Francophile, she rented a flat with a piano in Paris and began writing the songs from which Another Country emerged.  Despite some initial interest in the demos, however, Lost Highway dropped Merritt in 2006. Undaunted, she eventually released the record on Bay area-based Fantasy Records, a label once known for its jazz roster but also the home for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s string of late-60s hit records. Another Country charted well, and in retrospect sounds and feels like a debut — or at least a new beginning.  Much of that has to do with the freedom Merritt insisted on — and received — with her new deal. The narratives weren’t trope twang like Bramble Rose, but highly personal portraits and detailrich vignettes instead. The music embraced folk, soul, country Left: Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg This Page: Photo by Bryan Reed

and even an en Français piano ballad, but eschewed the broad strokes and big names of Tambourine for subtle shadings and familiar bandmates.  Merritt and her long-time band — bassist Jay Brown and drummer Zeke Hutchins, as well as newcomer and ex-Two Dollar Pistols’ guitar ace Scott McCall — toured hard behind Another Country, laying the foundation for the recording of See You On the Moon. Merritt hasn’t closed the circle by holding the sessions on familiar turf, but instead passed by the starting line on her way to making her musical world even bigger.  “Some days I feel so glad that I’m not green anymore,” she says. “I’m always looking forward to putting that to use, and being a better, smarter home for the work that comes my way in the future. But I think it’s all about having my own voice and my own point of view and cultivating that. I think that this record is a good signpost.”  Yet the script for See You On the Moon would have read differently if Merritt had recorded on the West Coast to accommodate her new producer, Portland-based Tucker Martine. That consideration was in the mix, but Martine instead suggested coming East to immerse himself in the band’s territory. That dovetailed with Merritt’s wish to “take this record back to North Carolina” and “build a fort in our backyard.”  Three-and-a-half weeks of 12-hour studio days followed with the band building on Merritt’s demos. But that, too, was just part of the story. Their families might still live in North Carolina, but for Merritt and Hutchins, who’ve been partners for a decade and were married shortly before recording began, the sessions evolved into a more nostalgic homecoming. Time away from Overdub Lane was often spent ferrying Martine around to the band members’ most cherished local haunts, with everything from the local elementary schools they’d attended to preferred bars and hamburger joints on the itinerary. »

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That became “a part of this record,” Merritt says, as did going to Seattle for overdubs and to Portland for mixing. “It just ended up being up a really, really nice mix of all of us.”  Merritt had also found the right producer for her vision of See You On the Moon. Martine’s eclectic production resume — The Decembrists, Bill Frisell, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon — was certainly a key selling point; so was his knack for getting what McCall characterized as “the best takes out of everyone with a minimum of frustration.” Merritt just wanted the music to reflect narratives that she’d worked hard to make “direct, and free of angst and judgment.”  “I wanted the decisions we made in the studio to be gutsy, bold and elemental, and not watered down by things that didn’t need to be there,” she says. “(Martine) made me so comfortable that I was able to go down in the well to some new places.”  Those new places reflected a more mature songwriter. Unlike Another Country’s intimate studies, which often read like crises of identity (“I’m broken, and I don’t understand what is broken,” she sang), the personal vignettes on See You On the Moon point outward rather than inward, and come off confident. In doing so, they also become more universal.  The country rocker “All The Reasons We Don’t Have to Fight” invites us to commiserate by skipping unnecessary detail for simple truths — who hasn’t looked back and said, “I didn’t mean what I said last night”? Over McCall’s twangy fills and a shuffling pace, Merritt balances the wrought havoc with the bonds that can withstand it. Unspoken, but lurking in the song’s shadows, is the question, “but for how long?”  At the other end of the relationship spectrum, the slinky guitars and Philly Soul strings of disc-opener “Mixtape” blend lust and love into a single entity, while Merritt’s lyrics capture the giddiness of sharing music when it’s still charming and revealing. Merritt doesn’t cheapen the narrative with easy sentiment or weighty pronouncements about undying love, because implicit is the question of what’s happened once the mixtapes stop.  But it’s two ruminations on death that really reflect her growth as a songwriter. Merritt penned the title track about a long-time neighbor, deceased several years now, who took in a blind, deaf,

“I feel like this is the record Tift really gets to be herself on, and she surrounded herself with people that allowed it to happen.” Scott McCall

22 shuffle eight Tift Merritt Photo by Daniel Coston

and three-legged dog who’d been hit by a train, and did it “just because that’s the kind of man he was.” He looked after Merritt over the years, too, and genuine appreciation leavens the sad undertow heard in the funereal pace and Greg Leisz’s winsome pedal steel. The uncluttered arrangement allows a line like “April is a fine time, just thought you’d be around in June” to reverberate with permanence.  Merritt wrote those lyrics long ago, but had to wait years for the right song to come along. “Feel of the World,” on the other hand, was written in one sitting as her grandmother lay dying in Texas and she was in Paris, alone and yearning for family. While waiting for the inevitable phone call, Merritt ran her hand over the wood of her desk and felt the weight of the pen in her hand, and contemplated all the tactile things “that must be so hard to lose,” she says, the memory still choking her up. The songwriting coup was to tell the story from her grandfather’s point of view even though he’d passed away just after Merritt was born, making it a love song from beyond the grave built on stories Merritt was told over the years.  Fittingly, the music here emphasizes texture: McCall’s tasteful guitar fills shadow Merritt’s piano on the verses, pushing toward choruses swollen — with strings, with keys, with harmonies from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and with Merritt’s strongest vocals yet — to the emotional breaking point. This is Merritt’s finest moment, and one unobtainable before this record.  “I feel like this is the record Tift really gets to be herself on, and she surrounded herself with people that allowed it to happen,” McCall says in admiration. “I think it’s clearer to her than it has been on past records. It’s a maturity thing.”  If the familiar faces and environs helped, so did adding Paris to that list. Merritt may have had little idea what she’d encounter when she ran away to France the first time, but she knew what the city would provide for inspiration this time and embraced it. She saw it every day in the corner bakeries and the small wine shops, and in the cheese maker who spends his whole morning arranging the cheeses in his window.  “Trying to get his cheese to take over the world is the furthest thing from his mind,” she says. “I love that.”  That’s the hard-earned sentiment of someone who’s had ideas of world domination foisted on her before, and then learned that the world is truly yours only when you let it go. shuf8


On The Rags

Local press can provide visibility, but can they decide relevance?

By W.T. Wilson

I

wonder a lot about the type of person who’d read this column. It’s becoming a regular thing, so I should start thinking about who’s going to be on the other end of the shit I squeeze out on this page.  I’m reminded of one of Chuck Klosterman’s most astute conclusions. In comparing Buckcherry’s numb-nuts rock hit “Crazy Bitch” and Gnarls Barkley’s fleeting phenomenon “Crazy,” the pop culture knowit-all opines, “the difference between ‘Crazy’ and ‘Crazy Bitch’ creates an ideal litmus test for how you experience popular music (and how that experience is shaped by media). Download both songs. Play them three times each. If you find yourself preferring ‘Crazy Bitch,’ you have been sonically and culturally emancipated: You will never have to read another album review for the rest of your life. You don’t need criticism, because the things you like don’t require explanation. You’re free. You’re crazy, but you like the way it fucks you.”  Incidentally, his audience likely doesn’t include the sonically and culturally emancipated. Neither does mine, or Shuffle’s for that matter.  This is important in understanding how Shuffle, or any publication worth its paper, determines what it does — and does not — elect to cover. Daughtry is, technically, a band from North Carolina, but trying to sneak that past the bastard snobs that run this rag would be harder than hiding a fart in an airlock. That’s because in addition to acknowledging local music, Shuffle’s purview is to critique it.  And criticism, as Chuck K elucidated, ain’t for everybody. The type of person who appreciates music criticism is the type who appreciates music in the context of other music. They love engaging with the ephemera surrounding the music probably as much as they enjoy actually listening to it. This person prefers “Crazy” because the historical consciousness that it comes with makes for good nerd-boner blog posts.  “Crazy Bitch” doesn’t make for much conversation at all; you think it’s either fuckin’ awesome or the opposite.

Illustration by Dee Snutz!

 The point I’ve been scratching my way toward is this: There’s an implicit agreement between those who write about music and those who read about music, and neither gives a shit about Buckcherry.  Once we’ve decided what we don’t want to hear about — cover bands, butt-rock skidmarks, fucking Buckcherry — then we can start to enjoy the debate over what we should be hearing about. Should we dive into the farthest reaches of sound this region has to offer, or should we keep things accessible with profiles of hardworking indie, hip-hop and roots rock acts? Do we concentrate on new acts with potential, or established acts with staying power? Should we review this band, or that one?  Debate is healthy, right?  But the way we relate to the so-called gatekeepers fundamentally shapes the way we experience the world of local independent music.  This is why I’m so puzzled anytime I see a local (allegedly) alternative paper wasting column inches on the likes of Buckcherry. I have to wonder for quite some time, scratching my head until my scalp hemorrhages, who in the hell would read 1,000 words about Buckcherry? Buckcherry fans don’t read music criticism; it’s likely they don’t read much of anything. If they want anything, it’s just the facts: where the band is playing, how much tickets are, and the likelihood of seeing some titties. They don’t give a rat’s taint about where the band figures in the zeitgeist. And when I see ink so misplaced, it makes me wonder if a town is so culturally barren that the best, most interesting thing a music writer could dig up in a given week is a band that doesn’t need to be explained. And if it’s not the town’s fault, then how could a paper whose mission is to shed light on the innovative and contextually compelling possibly be so rage-inducingly pointless?  I think we should demand a lot more from our media. By all means, hold my feet to the

fire until my Crocs fuse to my toe-hairs. I deserve it because I’m accountable to you. I assume you agree, which is why you’ve made it this far into my rant.  What we do here isn’t for everybody. It was never meant to be. shuf8

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Reviews Thanks to that little fucker Cupid, we have a popular songbook rather than a popular song pamphlet. The romance wringer that the cherub runs his victims through stokes songwriters’ imaginations like little else. It’s too bad so much mawkish sentimentality and cliché ensues. But when the blissed-out few hit love song pay dirt, passion gets a soundtrack.  Two recent regional releases – Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms and the Love Language’s Libraries — personify what can go right, or so terribly wrong, when songwriters tackle The Theme.  The third record from S.C.-based Band of Horses serves as a cautionary song-gonewrong tale, with leader Ben Bridwell in the role of Icarus. The Sub Pop-nurtured band with the expanding fan-base signed to Columbia last year, but Bridwell insisted on creative control and agreed to finance the record himself to guarantee it. Recording stints in Asheville’s Echo Mountain, Muscle Shoals and Hollywood followed, but most telling was the departure early on of producer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, The Shins), who helped craft the dynamic sonic range on 2006’s Everything All the Time and 2007’s Cease to Begin.  Ek’s cavernous sound is mostly absent here, with the equivalent of a soft-rock throw pillow in its place. It’s meant to convey intimacy, but instead reveals soporific songwriting that cannot hide — as Ek’s soft-loud equation did – the abundant weak spots in Bridwell’s narratives. Opener “Factory” signals a new direction with syrupy strings and Wall of Sound drumbeats over a lazy summer day’s melody, and the story laments band-on-tour

Band of Horses

By Inés Fonseca

loneliness. But comparing a loved one to a snack machine candy bar is an excruciating harbinger of the “Bartles & Jaymes” choruscum-product placement in disc-ender “Neighbor,” and all the cringe-couplets in between.  Then there’s all the tepid lovelorn fodder like “Blue Beard,” “On My Way Back Home” and the title track, which lack any of the elemental dynamics you’d expect to mirror the highs and lows of love. The worst offender is “Evening Kitchen” (written by Asheville’s Tyler Ramsey), whose harmonies are so schmaltzy you’ll yearn for the hard-charging excitement those late-night Classic Soft Rock infomercials offer. The pace rallies toward the end of the record, but trying to rekindle the romance is pointless. Bridwell was never going to be mistaken for Stephin Merritt or John Darnielle anyway, but before this record the dramatic production kept your mind off how threadbare his narratives could be. Sadly, Infinite Arms turns out to be that dude at the bar trying to convince everyone that his heartache is unique, though each retelling only points to its banality.  Stu McLamb makes no claims to uniqueness on Libraries, The Love Language’s second release and first for Merge. On the contrary, the Raleigh band’s frontman/ everyman relies to such a degree on love’s lingua franca — courtship, cad-ship, passion, forsaken hearts, etc. — that it serves first to remind us that everybody suffers these emotional storms. So, over the course of 10 heart-on-sleeve songs: lilacs bloom, fools rush in, lovers’ hearts beat like humming birds, and autumn leaves signal star-crossed romances gone to dust. McLamb uses this familiar,

candy bar-free imagery to embrace — wholeheartedly — “days in love” nostalgia, adding his own tales to a universal legacy.  He does much the same musically. McLamb may work with a broader and clearer-sounding palette here than on his home-recorded eponymous debut, but the aesthetic is unchanged. McLamb calls on a library of the tried-and-true – Roy Orbison yearning (“Blue Angel”), Otis Redding desperation (“This Blood Is Our Own”), Big Star craftsmanship (“Summer Dust”), Ray Davies wit (“Anthophobia”), and Phil Spector textures (everywhere) – to craft songs whose familiarity invites fellowship.  Like Infinite Arms, Libraries opens with a rush of swooning strings and mile-deep Wall of Sound layers on “Pedals.” But where Horses’ “Factory” reads like dilettante dabbling, here it feels absolutely necessary; McLamb is so committed to his conceit that there is no other way the song could plausibly unfold. This isn’t slavish Golden Oldie fundamentalism, though. McLamb’s shared musical history extends into the modern era: Beach Boys’ harmonies may adorn the outro to “Horophones,” but it’s the rocket-launch feedback that sends the song into orbit; the textures of “Wilmont” may recall Spector, but the song begins in a vintage 90s lo-fi haze. Hell, the epic guitars bridge on “Pedals” sounds like something Ek might produce.  Libraries works because it embraces the fundamental DNA of pop music: the addictive hooks and melodies that rock’s earliest fans heard through tinny transistor radios, and narrative themes that flew with Cupid’s first arrows. Together, they remind us that wellcrafted love songs never lose currency. shuf8

The Love Language

24 shuffle eight Reviews

Top: Photo by Christopher Wilson Bottom: Photo by Jason Arthurs


Archer Vs. Gunman The Last Days of Winter EP Self-released The holy bar rock trinity Chilton, Westerberg and Finn permeate this Spartanburg/ Asheville trio’s songs like smoke once stunk up the watering holes the music was meant for. The band’s suds-and-cigs debut includes four studio-recorded songs, and another six bonus tracks recorded for Clemson’s WSBF. The titles provide a roadmap to the narrative fare — “Art School Girl,” “Whenever I Get Close to Her,” and “A Song for All the Girls Who Can’t Remember How They Got Home Last Night” — but the lyrics are a step above the usual lame laments: “Starlite Houdini and the girl with the Blythe doll eyes/ Write love letters on beer coasters with the saddest of lies.” The music works best when it incorporates power (punk) pop dynamics (fuck it, throw in Sugar-era Bob Mould here, too), and least when it (thankfully rarely) tilts Triple-A Gin Blossoms. The trio’s green, and you’d like to hear what more production could pull out of them, but a promising beginning. JG Mellor

Babyshaker Legendary Self-released Glam bam, thank-you-ma’am. Charlotte’s Babyshaker makes for a genre-slipping, gendertwisting, hard rocking good time — by the third song they’re already whacking the cowbell like nobody’s business. But beneath the party band exterior, Babyshaker’s also got smarts (and chops) to burn. Lead vox

Scott Weaver exudes a Josh Homme-like gravitas, as in the rifftastic “Bright Young Thing” when he advises a doomed soul, “I think I’m done with you/ ‘cause all the light that used to shine/ Has been sucked from your eyes.” Yeah, he’s seen this go down before. And whether the group is choogling through Clutch-like boogie (“Hustler Blues”), embarking upon a psychedelic death trip (“My Karate Is Good Tonight”) or showing Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons how it’s supposed to be done (“Evil Queen”), there’s nary a wasted flourish or superfluous gesture. Recorded by Don Dixon at the Milestone Club and pressed on bloodred vinyl (w/download code for extra tracks, no less). More cowbell! Fred Mills

Beach Fossils Beach Fossils Captured Tracks On “Vacation,” the third track from the self-titled debut of Brooklyn band Beach Fossils, frontman and founder Dustin Payseur heads for the exit over a beat that stutters with anxiety and a guitar line that suggests a nervous, new-tothe-city boy wringing sweaty hands. “I’m getting on that bus/ Got to get out of town,” he sings of heading back south, his languid monotone muffled but tuneful. “I let the time pass by/ Soon I’ll be by your side.” Payseur formed Beach Fossils last year after moving from Charlotte to New York, and that contrast — urban bustle beneath rural torpor — defines the best parts of these 11 tracks. With repetitive lines that seem to be wrapped in humidity and a rhythm section that seems to be racing only itself, Payseur tunes out the world — “I don’t know what I’m doing tonight,” and “Lazy today, lazy tonight — and later on” — and tunes in sheepishly to slacker anthems chiming inside his head. Grayson Currin

Birds & Arrows Starmaker 307 Knox The cynical and woebegone should beware Starmaker, the debut of Andrea and Pete Connolly. The Chapel Hill couple released their debut as Birds & Arrows when they could still be considered newlyweds — honeymooners, even. And yes, Starmaker’s romantic dozen occasionally push sincerity to thresholds of melodrama and bathos, with personal details and crises that shed a little too much light on these love-andlife vignettes. The Connolly’s trademark wispy acoustic atmospheres don’t always help, either. But suspend disbelief, and enter — if only for 47 pretty minutes — a world where road trips against the odds are gorgeously strung metaphors and acquaintances given to debauchery provide a level of comfort through contrast. You’ll find that ascendant creeper “Company Keep” moves with perfect grace, while harmonyand-steel traipse “Daisy Renee” shuffles in and out like the sun. Sure, there’s editing to consider, but what else are relationships for? Grayson Currin

Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets Snake River Canyon Self-released Hailing from Winston-Salem (by way of Tennessee), Caleb Caudle is nominally classified as a roots or Americana artist, but if you’ve ever seen his band’s powerhouse live performances, you already know that label’s far too limiting. Likewise, on his third full-length, Caudle lets his stylistic wings spread

wide. Cut at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios, it’s a musical travelogue with midtempo tunes easing into raveups and keen attention paid to the intrasong dynamics. From opening track “So Gone” (a natural concert-opener, with its incessant throb, twinned guitar/ organ melody and a rowdy Clash-styled anthemic vibe) to the Springsteenian “Heat Lightnin’ Heat” (part twang and part jangle, urgent with tambourine and passionate with falsetto) to “Corners” (a chiming slice of Westerbergian power pop featuring an extended coda destined to make the tune a natural concert closer), Snake River Canyon is an embarrassment of musical riches. Fred Mills

Chatham County Line Wildwood Yep Roc Across its decade-long career, and especially after 2008’s IV, Chatham County Line has revealed itself to be a band more in favor of crafting hearth-warm songs built on a backing of rustic timbres and earnest songwriting than binding itself to bluegrass tradition. And as much as one might listen to Wildwood for its instrumental prowess — which it has, in spades — you will likely stick around for the songs that start to burrow. From the gradual swell of strings behind the spare and tender lullaby “Porcelain Doll” to the driving blues-twang of “Ringing In My Ears,” the Raleigh quartet — plus, notably, drummer Zeke Hutchins (who most often backs his wife, Tift Merritt) — sounds freer than it has before. It doesn’t make for CCL’s most cohesive album to date, but if nothing else, it injects a new sense of excitement into the veteran outfit. Bryan Reed

David Karsten Daniels I Mean To Live Here Still Fat Cat Triangle ex-pat David Karsten Daniels has always favored odd, keenly wrought arrangements that, whatever the canvas’ size, felt both grand and intimate. Collaborating with nine-piece Virginia avant-jazz collective Fight the Big Bull, he explores his idiosyncrasies without sacrificing subtlety. While this possesses fewer of the nooks and crannies that pocked his five prior fulllengths, it compensates with indomitable vibrancy and an engaging ebb and flow. There’s surprising restraint — seven of the 10 tracks are less than four minutes long — and despite the presence of brass and the occasional jazzy fill, it’s rarely overwhelming. That said, it is a strange bird that defies easy digestion. Like the Decemberists as a marching band, there’s a clamorous baroque undercurrent that pushes the songs off-kilter. The lyrics — taken from Henry David Thoreau poems — contribute to the peculiar free-spirited vibe, but at its best, as on the swelling folk of “The Funeral Bell” and groovy, shambling “On Fields,” it’s an arresting, earworming effort. Chris Parker

The Dirty White Vs. Evil Circles Viper Bite From the screeching blast of guitar feedback in the first moments of “Mighty Prehistoric,” the opening track on The Dirty White’s Vs. Evil Circles, you know what you’re in for: Dirty, noisy, and aggressive loud-rock. Indeed,

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the Florence, S.C., trio boasts of its unclassifiable nature — music critics “can’t put a label on us,” guitarist Josh McDowell and bassist Bill Grant bleat in tandem on “Diamond J” — but it’s not hard to trace the band’s influences: Sonic Youth’s sonic histrionics; The Stooges’ raw power; Mclusky’s brash snottiness; Big Black’s smarter-than-thou attitude; Liars’ spastic energy; Goes Cube’s art-metal intensity. But when The Dirty White sticks to its noise-rock guns as on “Mighty Prehistoric,” “OJ & the Isotoners,” and “Dabney Coleman, Pt. 5,” its appeal is undeniable. Manic, angular and undeniably intense, Vs. Evil Circles sure as hell ain’t a polite record, but it isn’t one you’re gonna boot off the stereo, either. Patrick Wall

07.10 6 YEAR SATURDAY LIVE MUSIC ANNIVERSARY SHOW! Blind Cobras Cooter Scooters The Thirsties Dirty White 07.17 Gods of Thunder (KISS tribute) 07.24 Magnetic Flowers Redbirds 07.31 Jerry Fest 08.21 Tell Tale Mercy Mercy, Me Burning Smell 08.28 NY Disco Villains Dave Britt Band The Sea Wolf Mutiny The Overtones 09.05 Isle of White Festival (Tribute) 09.11 American Gun Caleb Caudle and The Bayonets 10.02 Free Times Music Crawl

The Eastern Seaboard The Sound Power Black Saint Like most of us, I’ll assume, I tend to assign vague narratives to instrumental music. Jazz usually upsets those pretentions for me, as it seems to be a music about music, but The Eastern Seaboard only makes the narratives more complex and concrete. For example, “Etta Place,” a track smack in the middle of The Sound Power, sounds to me like a woman drunkenly crossing the floor of a party, realizing she’s made a fool of herself, trying to recover, and becoming utterly confused and depressed. The alto seems to express her emotions, the bass her mumblings and the drums her stumbling. The Eastern Seaboard (which features Charlotte’s Brent Bagwell) seems to straddle so many lines: it’s skronky, but it’s not loud; it’s free, but it swings; it’s jazz, but its rhythms, timbres and thrust suggest that it draws equal inspiration from postpunk and no wave. Like most jazz, however, it’s hard to put your finger on it for too long. Jesse Steichen

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Finger Still in Boxes 1990-1994 Second Motion Finger was never easy to write about. There are only so many ways to say “straight-at-ya, few-frills guitar rock.” Calling the four-piece a soul band, in the sense that it fell somewhere between Soul Asylum and the Plimsouls, was about as creative as you could get. And however presented, such sentiments suggested faint-praise damnation. But, damn it, Finger had something, a claim backed up by this 19-song (including an unlisted romp through the Knack’s “Good Girls Don’t”) collection. The group’s intertwined vocals — courtesy of guitarists Ricky Hicks and Brad Rice, and drummer John Howie, Jr. — offered the equivalent of friends finishing each other’s sentences. And when the searching, riffing guitars found the right tripwire, the payoff was a bursting hook. No song brought those elements together more thrillingly than “Another State,” which musically defined the dawn of the 90s in Raleigh in the same way that Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” did for Chapel Hill. Rick Cornell

Future Islands In Evening Air Thrill Jockey Synth pop is a passionate thing — through its cold, synthetic, inhuman view, emotions are shown in higher contrast, more bold and bright than they probably should be played. What’s striking about In Evening Air is just how warm and human the music sounds. The retro synths tend

to mimic choral voices, the bass has a melodic heart that beats like New Order’s Peter Hook playing the bass like it should be played, and the drum programming is textured and swings like there are actual arms and sweat behind it. The vocals are neither theatrical nor machine-like; they’re throaty and passionate, as if the guy thinks he’s in an R&B band. These guys met at East Carolina University, which might suggest something about ambition (or lack thereof), and there’s nothing particularly innovative about this album. But it makes all the right moves, and it hits all the right spots. Jesse Steichen

Garrigan Deep Sea Wishing Spectra With this 22-song marathon, Charlotte’s Jay Garrigan provides a comprehensive answer to the query, “So, whatcha been up to since 2000?” Spanning the decade since the singer/guitarist’s tenure in Laburnum, the songs bear various Garrigan bands’ signature marks: guitars that syncopate like Ted Leo or jangle a la R.E.M.; Ringo swing courtesy of drummer Shawn Lynch (Lou Ford); and Garrigan’s voice, all Freddie Mercury brass or Jeff Buckley falsetto. Poprocket’s two EPs are here in full, too, proving their classic, spiky power pop has aged well. The best of the rest are more contemplative, elaborate suites like “Seven Horses, Seven Ships,” “White Roses,” and “We Are Not Alone,” where the arrangements suit his vocal range and guitar prowess. There is repetition, a dud or two (the vocals on “Disco Moth” run high and low as rapidly as a slide-whistle), and some synth effects read too 80s. Twenty-two of anything is too much, but as a digital release there’s more than enough to pick and choose from. John Schacht


Gayngs Relayted Jagjaguwar On paper, this is a bad idea. A bunch of indie-rock types — led by Solid Gold’s Ryan Olson, and backed by an indie army including all three members of Megafaun, The Rosebuds’ Ivan Howard, and Justin “Bon Iver” Vernon — set out to stack a platter full of 10cc-style slow jamz. They recorded the whole thing at 69 beats per minute (heh-heh). It’s layered in gauzy guitars, steady beats, and more falsetto croons than a boys’ choir. But in the execution, Gayngs pulls off something rewarding and sincere. Sexy, but not abrupt, Relayted reveals itself slowly, like a shy stripper unsure of her own motives. Gunshots pierce the air behind Howard’s smooth tenor on “The Walker.” Noisy smears of sound bridge the gaps between tracks, turning the collection into a seamless mood piece. The jokey pretext fades into densely textured songs, whose molasses pacing and reverb-draped crooning hint at emotions much more complex than a gimmick band ought to be delivering. W.T. Wilson

GRIDS White Walls Inkblot Probability can suck it. GRIDS have defied the odds here, marking both their most uncomfortable and abrasive session, and their most tuneful with these six cuts. They’ve shaken off the tarry trudge of their debut, flinging bitterness with fierce momentum. And the freedom of movement the band has developed here

only highlights the structural power of their songs. “Home By Ten” volleys Fucked Upstyle ascending chords with a heaving low-end slog. GRIDS toys with pacing and repetition, but never fails to bring the song back to its center. Indeed, GRIDS has always been the rare noise-rock band whose songs aren’t entirely smothered in harsh timbres, but on White Walls, they’re digging grooves as deep as trenches and scratching melodies out of feedback like scrawled profanities on a library desk. The probability the band would have come this far this fast is miniscule, but GRIDS has never been about meeting expectations. Chris Powell

Brett Harris Man of Few Words Self-Released “You didn’t have to make it look so easy,” Brett Harris sings on the buoyant power pop track, “So Easy.” He could be singing about his whole debut LP. He unfurls razor sharp hooks with such guile, it’s almost discomfiting. There’s hardly a dud among these 12 tracks, as the Durham native fashions a delightfully winsome album to challenge pop craftsmen like Jason Falkner, Brendan Benson and Eric Matthews. You hear echoes of the Beatles, Big Star, and Brill Building exemplars in his exquisitely melodic mid-tempo tunes. The gentle warmth of the arrangements recalls the Pernice Brothers, only with more lighthearted buoyancy. It’s hard to pick a favorite from among the jangly soul-tinged shimmy of “I Found Out,” the lingering 70s soft rock sway of “Drop the Needle,” the rag-inflected cabaret “Over and Over,” or the rootsy, Stephen Stills-like “Wish.” It’s the region’s best pop-minded album since Hotel Lights’ 2005 debut. Chris Parker

Hiss Golden Messenger Root Work Heaven & Earth Magic Former Court & Spark frontman MC Taylor returns with a luscious six-song set recorded at WFMU and spruced up at his N.C.-based home studio. Four of the six are extended versions of songs from last year’s Country Hai East Cotton, but all benefit from an even richer textural palette provided by this sextet. The nine-minute opening track “John Has Gone to the Light” transitions from bird calls and backyard rustling to a dub-inflected, synth-spackled groove, saxophone binding to syncopated echoes while the melody and textures deliver you to a Spirit of Eden trance. “Lion/ Lamb” recalls acoustic-Zeppelin with its blend of 12-string and mandolin, while the fat sax/ guitar riff combo that opens “Resurrection Blues” sounds like vintage Traffic. Echoes of Fleetwood Mac, post-Barrett/ pre-Dark Side Floyd and other stoned-bliss touchstones permeate most every golden note here, proving that Taylor’s musical root(s) work has paid off again. Inés Fonseca

In The Year Of The Pig Jamón Holidays For Quince The mammoth Jamón — which spreads its hour over five marathon tracks — condenses lengthy grooves and wild punctuations into fuel. Propulsive opener “You Want To Live, But We Will Die Free” roars like a plane at take-off, and climbs as high. Bursts of kinetic noise turn into monolithic drones, which themselves grow to

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carve ocean-deep grooves, like Lightning Bolt duct taped to Holy Fuck. The heavy, tumbling rhythm section — which comprises two bassists and two drummers — is as agile and sure-footed as it is monstrously heavy. But rather than lumber aimlessly through rote repetition, this sways and taunts like a cobra before it strikes. “Workin’ For Nothin’” finds the band strangling metallic riffs until they form malleable guidelines for the song’s progression. On “For The Glory Of Man,” a hypnotic chant boils into a tidal wave. But this hulk, stitched together from pieces of metal, noise, Krautrock and free-jazz, offers far more than it demands. Hank Garfield

Jews & Catholics Who Are We? We Think We Are! 307 Knox This Winston duo’s latest inhabits an intuitive, surprisingly unexplored junction of Joe Strummer’s bashed Telecaster and Robert Smith’s runny eyeliner. “Fevers” swings a swaggering riff wide open, like “Brand New Cadillac” loaded on painkillers. “Golden Arrow” and “Zombie Teeth” are early-80s highway-at-night music: dark romanticism illuminated by neon lights. The drum machine doesn’t always pull its weight, and there are a few stumbles, such as the jarring tempo shift in opener “Dear Alexa.” But the duo’s songwriting is solid. Eddie Garcia’s melodic baritone resonates in the same haunted frequency as the subterranean rattle of Alanna Meltzer’s upright bass, while Garcia’s reckless guitar delivers consistent rawk goodness. Picture a wolverine set loose in a cathedral: It’s a mix of arena bombast and house party rowdiness, and that Jews & Catholics can maintain it in the absence of human percussion makes this a respectable offering. Corbie Hill

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28 shuffle eight Reviews

Little Brother LeftBack Traffic Ent. No one can argue that LeftBack is anything but a fine, classy exit for Little Brother. Underground sensations in the mid-00s, Phonte and Big Pooh (without 9th Wonder for some time now) are always an easy listen — rich with soulful samples and a shmoov sheen to each track. You almost wish they’d toss out more of a bitch slap here, but on your last night in town do you really go out slashing tires? On the first of three album highlights, “Tigallo For Dolo,” we get the album’s mission statement: “We got wives/And sons that need raising...21 years old/I used to sling verses/But 10 years later/I’m not the same person.” Follow that with “Second Chances” and “Before The Night Is Over” to hear Little Brother at its best. With solo ventures of their own in the works, Little Brother’s members seem less eager to get out of the game here than they seem interested in an another — lower — gear. Topher Manila

Jon Lindsay Escape From Plaza-Midwood Chocolate Lab Jon Lindsay’s debut is as intricately crafted as you’d expect from a self-proclaimed studio rat, but it never approaches overwrought: the harmonies swell where you’d expect, brief flashes of electro and keys illuminate the oakey and organic acoustic guitar, and laugh lines miraculously appear when the mood threatens to tilt into game-oversville. Lindsay, who has a background in fiction

and poetry, is an admirable chronicler of both characters and character. The whole production borrows a bite-size Bloomsday feel that comes as close as any regional record in recent memory to rendering what it means to be alive, and even thrive, as a young person today in a world where connections may be as close as your phone, but compassion seems further away by the day (see “My Blue Angels,” “Futuretown,” “Frequent Flyer,” and the “New English Magazines”). To take such reallife, humdrum monotony and meld it into compelling art is no mean feat. Timothy C. Davis

Mandolin Orange Quiet Little Room Self-released There’s nothing wrong with the premise behind Quiet Little Room — it’s agreeably depressing modern folk for the “turn it down” crowd. Yet Mandolin Orange does precious little to expand the genre. The trouble with this record is limited range — both of content and emotion. Overextended metaphor couples with weepy fiddle, resulting in music that fades nicely into the background, yet blurs upon closer inspection. The only exceptional moment is “Quiet Little Turnaround,” a banjo-and-fiddle instrumental with impressive phrasing. “Modern Man” is a lounge jazz number with the vocal melody hopelessly obfuscated by a tricky time signature. The song’s message — that modern culture might, in some vague way, be less fulfilling than some undefined earlier time — is the same oversaturated cliché inescapable on pop country radio. And that may just be why Quiet Little Room exists in a stylistic holding pattern. There are only so many ways to sing about old wheels spinning. Corbie Hill

Tift Merritt See You On the Moon Fantasy When Tift Merritt signed to Lost Highway, she was a burgeoning star(ling) in the making — the young, pretty possessor of a songbird’s sweet coo, she had Female-RyanAdams (sans sousedness) written all over her, thanks to road testing material for years with The Carbines. Merritt has publically copped to pumping a lot of Bill Withers whilst recording her new platter, and the sonics suss out the connection: a new focus on grease and groove, with bells and whistles packed away for safekeeping. “Feel of the World” (with guest vocal by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James) will probably get the most play, but the entirety of Merritt’s return home to her North Carolina roots (and her decision to nab producer Tucker Martine of Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens renown) is (porch) swingin’ listening, a spare and smooth, if sometimes sentimental, ode to life off the road. (There’s even a cover of Anne Murray’s “Danny’s Song” thrown in for good measure.) Timothy C. Davis

Museum Mouth Tears In My Beer self-released Everything about this is just right. This Coastal Carolinian trio, whose oldest member is barely in his 20s, just hits it dead on. It’s not that there’s anything particularly unique about what Museum Mouth has assembled here, and their previous EP, I Am The Idiot of The Jungle, was the rawersounding set. But the peppy

fuzz they’ve put down here just captures what I can’t help but feel is the whole reason bands like this exist. It sounds like what it is: kids without much better to do than start a band. The buzzing guitars and shrugged vocals become the record’s soul. The band’s strong sense of melody and knack for dropping memorable lines at just the right moment don’t hurt. But feeling like every note is the wringing out of another wasted day is much harder to let go of. Bryan Reed

Paper Tongues Paper Tongues A&M/Octone These dudes certainly aren’t making any compelling arguments for the sophistication of major label pop. Each predictable windowsdown jam can be boiled down to its bursting Muse-meetsThe Script chorus and the accompanying motivational slogan. “This one’s for the people/Don’t lose heart cuz things get better,” declares the septet’s frontman Aswan North, baiting a feel-good sing-along. Heck yeah. Fuck thinking. Vote Republican. Listen to Paper Tongues. Eat from a straw. Call it a day. Later, North boasts, “I can’t wait to go to California.” Why? you ask. “It makes sense to go to California.” For reals?! Clearly sophistication is not the point. But, holy shit, man, you could see yourself in this spitshined turd. Every arena rock vamp, tinkling piano phrase, and hip-hop detour arrives on cue. This is nothing if not polished. It’s hard to imagine this not selling. So kudos to the cavalcade of songwriters and producers and studio musicians that made this band what it is: a product. W.T. Wilson


Shalini Magnetic North Paisley Pop It’s risky to presume autobiography on the part of songwriters who routinely employ metaphor and character sketches. Still, listening to Shalini Chatterjee’s fourth solo release, the inevitable conclusion is that someone’s gotten their heart broken, what with such lines as “I sense a change,” “you don’t want me around” and — most pointedly — “betrayal… desertion… heartache set in motion.” The latter indictment comes from “Walking Ghost of Death,” a ripsnorting slice of power pop that sounds like a sweaty collision between the Breeders and the Plimsouls, and it’s emblematic of how exposed-nerve emotion can elevate a song from just “good” to “great.” Elsewhere the Shalini band (abetted by husband Mitch Easter on piano and Velvet’s Jane Francis on backing vox) conjure distaff images of classic Dream Syndicate (“One of One”) and psychedelic Cheap Trick (“Echo”). Translation: kickass music — or music to kick someone’s ass with. Don’t be on the receiving end of this gal’s wrath. Fred Mills

Mike Strauss Band Ideal Road Self-released You’ve read such a description a hundred times before: “like it’s from kinder, artist-friendlier times when radio wasn’t built around pigeon holes, and genres were encouraged to crossbreed.” Prepare to hear it at least one more time because this rock ’n’ roots-rooted

throwback proves it. All eight songs feel smartly measured (fold in blues, add a gospel pinch) but without a whiff of contrivance, which is a pretty neat trick. And by doing the most with the hybrid approach, the horn-enriched “Gabriel’s Song” and the country-soulful “In Search of a New Beginning” earn standout nods. Those of a certain vintage might be reminded of listening to Bonnie Raitt’s Takin’ My Time, Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch, or a Little Feat mix tape through their first Pioneer speakers. Factor in that Mike Strauss may be holding Mark Knopfler’s voice for ransom, and the trip back to those four-songs-to-a-side days, most likely in a Pacer, is complete. Rick Cornell

Thank God Ice/Age Exotic Fever Somebody stick a spoon in my mouth, I think I’m having a seizure. On this, their finest outing, S.C. spazzers Thank God are like strobe lights to epileptics, exploding blasts of white-hot speed-skronk with very little by way of warning. But, while the intensity on Ice/ Age is at superhuman levels, to focus solely on the frenzy is to miss the point here. Thank God’s manipulating our brains the whole way through this ordeal. The three-part “Hugo/ Chavez” suite slowly builds over two tracks as deliberate and increasingly agonizing as water torture until the third movement finally offers release. These passages of (relative) calm are just as vital, though. They’re the nervous tiptoes before your foot finds a landmine. And the tension Thank God creates in its paths between the taut, patient passages that serve as tripwires and the inevitable detonation is more than enough to build utopia for auditory masochists. Chris Powell

Valley Maker Valley Maker Self-released The solo project of Columbiabased Austin Crane strips his eponymous act’s arrangementsrich songs to mere lattice-work; when you’re writing a song cycle based on the first book of the Old Testament, the fewer sonic gewgaws, the better. This is, however, no come-to-(pre-) Jesus proselytizing or Christian Rock drek. The 10 songs were actually Crane’s senior honors thesis, and his skeletal guitar lines, spare croak, occasional percussion, and the foilharmonies of Georgia singer Amy Godwin keep the focus on these character studies. The minimalist electric guitar blues “Babel” eventually rumbles with tower-forging percussion; Godwin trails Crane like a shadow on the acoustic “Hagar and Ishmael,” befitting the handmaiden-as-surrogatemother tale; the entwined vocals on “Jacob and Esau” mirror the fraternal twins’ fates; and the beatific choruses of album-highlight “Joseph” are worthy of their subject’s rise from slavery. You don’t have to be a believer (believe me) to enjoy Crane’s retellings, and this beats the bejesus out of my thesis’ entertainment value. JG Mellor

Various Artists To Live A Lie Records 2010 Sampler To Live A Lie You have to wonder, just how extreme can music get before it exhausts itself? With its 26 tracks spanning only 24 minutes, this compilation curated by Raleigh’s To Live A Lie Records would seem

to represent the outer poles of speed and brutality in grindcore and hardcore, but to these ears it showcases stability in the genre. The assumption that feral vocals and blitzkrieg instrumentals are inherently more difficult falls flat in the face of dramatic dynamics and engaging delivery. N.C.’s Thieves evoke hardcore pioneers on their 59-second contribution, “Hard Kids.” Female-fronted D.C. outfit Deathrats unleash a hailstorm of clattering blastbeats and tumbling guitars that opens into a panoramic breakdown. And it’s indicative of the genre that each of these cuts, culled from as far afield as Turkey (Sakatat) and Japan (Conga Fury), speaks a universal language of hyperbolic speed and volume, but also that each embraces dramatic shifts in approach in order to maintain interest. Chris Powell

Wages In Sun Self-released Emerging after the amicable split of Arizona, this Asheville trio propitiously dials back pretty much everything from the parent band. The first in a series of 2010 EPs, In Sun drops Arizona’s psychedelic and proggy excesses for shorter, tighter songs with influences ranging from the Byrds and R.E.M. to Slowdive’s shoegaze and Fleet Fox folk. “You” nicely matches Peter Buck arpeggios to its marching percussion, while “Eclipse” cribs the same beat but opts for glissandos and reverb, plus a brief piano bridge, to create an entirely different-sounding song. “Turning Around” tilts twee-folk, but it’s brief, and EP-highlight “Hurricane Cocaine” adds welcome heft by careering between jangling Rickenbackers and glistening 4AD reverb. Even the sixminute-plus “Golden Tower” glides coherently — which wasn’t the Arizona way — into its noisy shoegaze bridges. And with Nick Campbell’s pleasant,

feathery vocals replacing former frontman Ben Wigler’s distracting dog-whistle alto, the focus remains on Wages the band — which these tracks suggest is well-earned. JG Mellor

Andrew Weathers A Great Southern City Full Spectrum Using shifting textures as his primary tool, Greensboro’s Andrew Weathers envelops listeners in what amounts to warm fugue states, songsculpting from droning computer noise and repetitive figures (often via guitar here). A pulsing form slowly takes shape during the nine-minute “Dusty Summer Ghost,” a storm-front gathering through successive layers of computerized keys. By the end, it’s like losing yourself in cloud-watching and realizing entire weather systems have crossed the sky. The record balances these long modern classical styles (“Left Arm Sunburnt,” like Arvo Pärt on a morphine drip) and ambient post-rock (the metallic-toned “Skin Holding Atoms In”) with short, three-minute guitarcentric vignettes like “Sails” and “Song” — Weathers even sings on the latter, but as though from a space outside the studio. The folk-like “First Front Porch Brooklyn” features guitar figures that eventually give way to rich organ wash; it sounds like a hymn to simple pleasures — not unlike this record. Inés Fonseca

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