The Tarheels are coming. As if the gridiron success of the Panthers or the surprising strong showing of the state’s ersatz presidential hopeful weren’t enough, North Carolina is threatening to be the next big thing in music — again. Not since the early nineties, when bands like Superchunk, Archers of Loaf and Polvo pretty much defined “indie rock,” has the always-fertile (due largely to indie stalwart Merge Records) Triangle music scene — Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh for the uninformed — been so exciting. Combining twenty-one bands from that region, upstart label Pox World Empire (benevolent, I’m sure) lays down the scene’s imprimatur, warts and all, for the rest of us to take notice.
Varying both in style and quality, Compulation Volume One: Songs from North Carolina is a patchwork of stylish pop and smart alternative numbers and deserves a listen, if only a quick one. Too many of the bands featured come off a tad too … well, either provincial — Goner (Bifocal Media) — or derivative — Pleasant (Pox World Empire) — to impress. Some, most notably the Cold Sides (sans label) and Cantwell Gomez and Jordan (Hypno-Vista), miss the mark, and badly at that.
Still, others do leave a mark. The Rosebuds continue to impress with their primed pop perfections. Merge label mates Portastatic, the as-yet unsigned Sleepies, and Pox World’s own the Sames play to likeminded sensibilities. Meanwhile, rock-in-can Jett Rink (Pox World), the searing ache of Des_Ark (Bifocal Media) and the soon-to-be-noticed North Elementary (Sit ‘n’ Spin) flex just enough raw muscle to make a case that the Triangle music scene is indeed in ascendancy.