When Beloved Binge's husband-and-wife duo Rob Beloved and Eleni Binge moved from Seattle to Durham in 2005, they entered a new and growing scene of playfully adventurous DIY-ers. Their first record as an N.C. act, 2006's Other Places, was cut from the same freewheeling cloth that led bands like Midtown Dickens, Future Kings of Nowhere, Eberhardt and All Your Science to figure out their new approaches to folk and pop in the tiny Bull City Headquarters.
By the time Beloved Binge issued Blender Theory in 2008, though, most of that scene had started the inevitable process of growing up or fading out of view. Midtown Dickens shed their amateur charm for polish and poise. Bull City Headquarters closed. New, proper venues opened.
Beloved Binge changed, too: Between long tours and a trip to Greece to mourn the passing of Binge's father, the band left Durham for almost two years. They returned road-tested and entered Jerry Kee's studio in September 2011 to record Pockets, their fullest-sounding and most confident record to date.
The duo still relies on a deceptive simplicity that recalls idiosyncratic K Records pop and tangled melodies that suggest post-punk angularity. They still sing together, too, with a complementary almost-harmony that has earned comparisons to the B-52s. And the spirit of the band is still playful, even as it tackles weighty themes. Over the simple jaunt of "Born," for instance, Binge sings (presumably to her late father), "Happy Deathiversary/ You didn't come to your party/ Yeah, it was just me."
Though they experiment some, they mostly stick to their quirky comfort zone. Where the plodding guitar-keyboard riff that braces "Hello, Hi" might build into a driving Krautrock excursion, Beloved Binge reins it in with concise, metered vocals. "Manufacturing Blues" opens with a droning incantation of "To walk the fields that burn" and tosses a clatter of found percussion into its midsection. The song remains rooted in its dominant riff, though, like a simplified White Stripes blues lick. Those sorts of detours are hardly uncharacteristic for Beloved Binge. The self-described "rubble-pop" outfit proudly boasts its eclecticism, citing Greek folk as fervently as indie rock.
Thank Kee's warm production and that time on the road for the duo's sharpened focus. It's enabled songs such as "Bill's Off Broadway," which draws a catchy tune from a tangle of guitars, or the neat opener "Decades," which features an ebullient hook and Beloved Binge's closest harmonies. "I said, 'Slow down. Tomorrow's a new day'," the pair sings together.
It's a fitting motto for the steadily evolving outfit—now a trio, having added bassist Mike Wright this year. They might've left town for a while, but Pockets proves Beloved Binge kept pace with Durham.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Three acts, back for more."