taking a listen

taking a listen

reviews of local & state music CDs

North elementary Not For Everyone, Just For You

The one thing that separates North Elementary (www. from the others in the upper-echelon of contemporary Chapel Hill pop is their predilection towards lyricism of the more abstract variety; their verbiage is so charmingly circuitous that interpretation depends largely on extenuating factors on the part of the listener, i.e. mood, intoxicant, etc. That’s not a slight in any sense, however, as it tends to create a distinct, evolving listening experience for anyone and at any given time and it’s especially true on their third album, Not For Everyone, Just For You. They are occasionally a little too impenetrable, almost of the REM Monster variety, but occasionally lacking the memorable hooks that implored forgiveness of Michael Stipes’ lyrical eccentricity. It’s especially true on “I’m Not Fooln’,” where lines like “a need to consume/ a need to dine in stormy weather/ who brought the center of the universe to town” might leave many grasping at interpretation.The album’s biggest draw, however, lies in the lush instrumental arrangements that leave little room for empty space. So much is packed into each track that it nearly overwhelms the first time through. The diaphanous, fuzzed-out guitar breaks amidst almost ambient piano phrases in “Ones in Love” sounds like a page straight from the Wall of Sound playbook, while subsequent listens reveal aspects that might now have registered the first time through. While Not For Everyone, Just For You might be a little difficult to absorb at first, there, in fact, is a little something for everyone to be found.


Bower Birds Upper Air

There might be a new East Coast versus West Coast war brewing, though no rappers will lose their lives in this one; there aren’t even any involved and the actual participants may not even realize that they’ve been drafted into service. It’s hard to argue that anywhere but the Portland, Ore. is sovereign over the Left Coast indie scene, though their Eastern counterpart offers room for debate. The immediate choice would be Brooklyn, but if we’re talking per capita, the correct answer would be our own Chapel Hill. Within its borders, Bowerbirds (www. might possess the best of both worlds; the ornate, textured arrangements prevalent in Portland acts and the Southern folksy twang of Chapel Hill. They already have two very good releases under their belts and that trend continues with the third. Upper Air teems with the meticulous arrangements that bands such as the Decemberists and Fleet Foxes utilize, yet this album’s personality is derived directly from the easily identifiable way the band delivers the material. It’s straightforward and grounded, yet made so memorable by the dedication to a rangier vocabulary than conventional folk carries. Like their more middling cousins however, charisma isn’t the strong suit of these songs, though the album’s closer “This Day” does have its moments of grandeur. They don’t reach out and grab you as much as they curl up in your pocket and lay waiting until they’re needed. Even the album’s best track, “Bright Future,” is as unassuming as it is gorgeous. It’s even a little provoking at times and Upper Air does its best to make you forget that folk doesn’t have to be disposable.


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