Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Soapbox To Close In July

Eastern North Carolina has always been the red-headed stepchild of the state. While there's gems hidden within the confines of this great area, there's never been many quality outlets for entertainment. However, venues like The Soapbox are exceptions to this generalization. Even as a New Bern native this venue, nearly two hours away from home, shaped my views of this state's music scene. Sadly, The Soapbox shared today that the beloved venue will be closing on July 28.

Brent Watkins, proprietor of the venue, released a statement today outlining the venue's closing. Watkins states that "without a significant injection of outside capital for the purchase and much needed facilities improvements, The Soapbox cannot, going forward, continue to operate within its original confines." Unfortunately this is a problem that we've seen far too often in this part of the state, but thankfully the passion for live music lives on within the area. While beloved venues like the Spazzatorium and Broad Street Music have long closed their doors, they've found new outlets through which to spread creativity and to create a community.

Album Review: "Singles" by Spider Bags

Singles by Spider Bags was released on Churchkey
Records on June 25, 2013
Spider Bags have become one of North Carolina's most beloved bands in what feels like no time at all. Although the band released their first full length in 2007, it wasn't until their 2009 release Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World that they truly began to pick up steam. Since then the band has only become tighter, finding themselves far more focused on honing their frenetic bursts of energy and razor-sharp lyricism.

The three years between Goodbye Cruel World... and their highly acclaimed follow-up Shake My Head was peppered with 7" singles released on various local labels, serving as a scrapbook that chronicles the natural progression of this garage rock outfit. But naturally, singles don't get as much attention as full lengths and many of these Spider Bags songs probably went unheard by quite a few folks if they weren't regularly attending the group's live shows. Thankfully, Church Key has relieved us of that ailment and on Tuesday the label released a collection simply titled Singles that packs all ten of these tracks into one extremely pleasing package.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Show Preview: Reptar w/ Casual Curious & The Brand New Life

Reptar will headline at Kings Barcade in Raleigh
on June 18 w/ Casual Curious & The Brand New Life
opening. Tickets are $10 in advance
Ah, summertime shows. The perfect escape from the sweltering blanket of humidity known as a North Carolia summer. It feels a bit like the end of a hibernation, bands are touring like crazy and shows range from a cool welcome oasis to a tightly packed sweatfest in an overcrowded room (hey at least you're in it together). Either way, summer shows are quite simply delightful--especially when they're filled with as many talented bands as this one. On June 18 Kings Barcade will house some of the most exciting live acts in the Southeast.

Reptar's name may throw you off, especially if you're not fond of the early 90's cartoon from which it's inspired. Quite frankly the first time I saw it I was expecting a shitty screamo act, but I was more than pleasantly surprised when I heard the dancy psych-pop that emanated from my speakers. I was immediately enthralled with their unique blend of countless musical stylings, you can hear the group dabbling into Afro-pop rhythms, exploring their sonic depths with expansive synths and evoking passionate emotion with pseudo-shouting vocals. Reptar is the type of band that you simply have to experience live, their energy is practically pouring out of the stereo. Closing your eyes you can envision the band bouncing around on stage with droves of adoring fans and you simply WANT to be there. The band commands your attention by combining entrancing polyrhythms with robust vocal melodies, making for an astounding listening experience.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ears to the Ground: "Matthew" by Villa Verde

If you've checked out our compilation then you're no stranger to the Wilmington based group Villa Verde. Their last single "Tell-Tale Heart" debuted on The Bottom String as a swift blast of eyes wide open indie rock, a vibrant song with filled with drive and determination. With a large scope and short span of attention, their songs sway in and out of various moods. One minute you're gliding along smoothly with a Death Cab-esque refrain and the next you're in the midst of a percussive breakdown filled with frenetic flashes of brilliance.

The band's new single "Matthew" is a perfect representation of this.  The track begins with a brisk drum beat and slowly unravels with a Gibbard-esque vocal melody with the vivid imagery and astute harmonies to match. However, the track doesn't remain static for long, as a punchy bass lick and explosive guitar line kick in and the song transitions into a rhythmic breakdown that feels like a different band entirely. A brief, gritty hint of the development this band has undergone since their last single.

"Matthew" displays a bold side of Villa Verde that showcases the sheer depth of the band's range.  As we saw with "Tell-Tale Heart", the group continues to explore and expand upon their sound and always seem to come back with satisfying results.  The group is set to release an EP sometime this summer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Listen To B-Sides From Baobab's Upcoming EP "In 7.59 Billion Years, We're All Gonna Die"

I've made no attempts at hiding my fanboy-isms for Durham's Baobab.  Phil Torres brilliantly blends an electronic approach with traditional folk sentiments to create a sleek finished product.  Baobab has already released one of my favorite albums of 2013 with BAYOHBAHB, but the songwriter isn't quite done yet, as we'll be getting an EP later this year with the bleak title of In 7.59 Billion Years, We're All Gonna Die.  For those of you that checked out my interview with Phil on WKNC's Artist of the Month feature back in February, this is no news to you.  However, it is exciting to hear previews of the upcoming EP in these b-sides from the forthcoming release.

These two new tracks showcase to very different sides of the prolific Durham artist, one highlights Torres' innate ability to craft free-flowing melodies with a particular sense of nonchalance while the second track brilliantly brings attention to his ability to build a dense, atmospheric soundscape to immerse yourself in.

"The Boy Shot The Man With The Gun" is the lead-off track for this short collection of B-Sides, it opens with a bare-boned acoustic riff and gradually builds into a rich track filled with reverb-washed harmonies, mood-building whistling and bright melodies that perfectly counteract the darker lyricism.  The song toys with rustic influences re-packaged with a contemporary approach, smooth slides provide grand dynamics while the ending vocal refrain nods towards gospel influences.

"We Exist In The Present (But Only Ever Experience The Past)" shows off Torres' intellectual, heady approach to his music.  Field recordings of rushing water and reversed synth lines add an atmospheric blend of texture to this tune, taking the backseat to a vocal exploration of astrophysics and Earth's relation to the universe that surrounds it.  The title of the track suddenly morphs into an explanation of this speech as the song goes on, the importance of the music and vocal sample trading off.  By the time the track is fading away with a simple guitar riff, the listener feels as if they've undergone an aural adventure into the depths of not only their mind, but the world that surrounds them.

If this is what we can expect from Baobab's upcoming EP then color me excited.  Listen to the new tracks below: