taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment

ESTRANGERS Black Ballroom

On the opening track “White Flowers” off of Estrangers’ debut EP Black Ballroom, the Winston-Salem fuzz-pop sextet present the hallmark of great classic pop: they extract every ounce of feeling that a simple four-note melody can produce. Many great bands before them have done it — Grizzly Bear and the Love Language are among recent examples — and like them, all six instruments in the Estrangers’ lineup exercise relentless dedication to the greater melody.

The sound that results is loud and urgent, yet crunchy and a little bit shambolic at the same time, but it’s no accident. The members of Estrangers are all music vets in their own right. Guitarist and vocalist Philip Pledger is a sideman in Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets, while Drag Sounds, Serious Bangs and Mutant League are all represented, and there’s a little bit of each of those bands represented in the disquieted pop of Estrangers. Drummer Patrick Sheehan brings the same propulsive drumming style heard on Mutant League’s debut EP to “L’Avventura,” and Mike Wallace channels Serious Bangs to add sweet and slightly despaired guitar to the band’s oeuvre on “House Ghosts.” But beneath the hazy pop veneer, it’s an intensely emotional album. On “House Ghosts,” Pledger’s begrudging ode to the band’s hometown — or Ashtray Town as he refers to it — may be the first instance in song where someone confesses to being broken by the Camel City. Yet, the ideas in the songs here seem to embody more tangible entities — people, most likely — and those are ideas to which we call can relate.