Battle of the Beards
Ben Davis and the Jetts and Des Ark are wildly different. The former plays streamlined indie rock about surveillance and technological paranoia; the latter plays loose, punky indie-folk about joyless sex and broken hearts. Either way, both bands are in top form on this split LP.
Davis's Jetts are a crack team of locals: Les Savy Fav's Harrison Haynes, Fin Fang Foom's Eddie Sanchez, ex-My Dear Ella bandleader Eric Wallen and others. The dark, elegant pulse of "Clash It" sparkles with glassy reverb and electronic textures, while "Gorilla Bot" locks jaunty keys, stabbing guitars and a lilting vocal line into bouncy concision. Davis has developed a nuanced command of his thin voice: He uses it to paint broad strokes of twilight into the Jetts' stark music.
Des Ark's song titles are long enough to eat up this entire review, but it's best described as a totality, anyway. Aimee Argote is a rare musical talent, with a shambling indie-folk prosody and visceral anguish reminiscent of early Bright Eyes. She plays guitar like she's wrestling a snake, biting off syllables like fingernails. Certainly, the music—a tidal wash of percussive acoustic guitar and starry piano—is terrific, but Argote's voice, as an instrument, overwhelms anything you can put on a track. Whether it's soaring into a queasy vibrato or dropping to a faltering whisper, it's a grayscale wonder, credibly imparting emotional calamity without a whiff of treacle. —Brian Howe
The Sibling Project/ Wolverines
"Summers," a track from the furious Raleigh two-piece Wolverines, has just ended, snapping the closure onto four minutes of unabashed emotional flagellation and flailing. When Wolverines play, cymbals saturate the tape. Bottom-of-the-throat screams slap against microphones. Scabrous guitars cut between heavy snares like a rusty rotary blade demanding its way through a reinforced lead pipe. But less than a minute after drummer Brandon Smith and guitarist Victor Devlin have screamed their way into a slow-fade coda, a synthetic beat of drum machine snaps and thin keyboard blips perks into the mix. The rusty blade is a sharp sweet tooth, and the lead pipe is heavy candy. It sounds like a joke.
But it's not: That beat belongs to The Sibling Project, the Raleigh brother-and-sister duo of Danny and Lindsey Ranck. Together, they play the parts of strident pop architects, building commiseration invitations from the acute angles between simple acoustic guitar lines, danceable programming and naturally loping keyboards. While Wolverines revel in anxiety much too unstable to allow for melody (like two-piece Cap'n Jazz, only thicker), The Sibling Project works through its problems by funneling them into melodies. While Wolverines is barely comprehensible, focused more on expressing symptoms than delineating their causes, The Sibling Project chooses to always sound like it's dealing with the ultimate early-20s battles for significance and validation.
As a split, it works because two bands approach similar muses through wildly divergent takes: Essentially, it's post-adolescent angst, the sort of stuff that happens when personal relationships and the compulsion to storm all expectations through their standing gates become the priorities that preempt either desolation or redemption. And, as to whether you'd prefer to hear that as the finesse (The Sibling Project) or the fury (Wolverines), that's, rightly, a mighty personal judgment. —Grayson Currin