Saturday, July 19, 2014

CLT's Late Bloomer drawing national ears with sophomore album

Charlotte indie-rock trio Late Bloomer celebrates the release of its second album "Things Change" tonight at Snug Harbor. The album has enjoyed a nice national roll out with Stereogrum and Noisey premiering tracks before the July 1 release, Brooklyn Vegan exclusively streaming the record, and Pitchfork giving it a seven star review.

The AV club debuted the video for "Dr. Abernathy" earlier this week. You may even recognize faces from other Charlotte bands, the Milestone Club, and Lunchbox Records (You can watch it in this week's hot concerts, scroll down).

The first time I saw Late Bloomer I was drawn to the stage from across the room by a style of music I hadn't heard in a while. The moody dynamics, angry sung/shouted male vocals, layer of fuzz, and methodical, yet expressive rhythm section pointed to the late `80s and `90s indie rock I grew up on. It was as if we shared history.

There's obvious comparisons to Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. on "Things Change." When wailing, but not overlong guitar solos and disaffected vocals (which were always a preferred counterpoint to grunge era emoting in my book) kick in, I can't help but think of J. Mascis. There's an equal fondness for noise and catchy pop hooks that echo a lot of Bob Mould's work, especially on songs like "Black Patches." If you can hold still as that song escalates through the urgent bridge, then you may have unnaturally strong self control. It's as urgent as Japandroid's last few incredibly catchy singles.

Moodier tracks like "Dr. Abernathy" and, at times, "Mirrors" remind me of dreamy, bordering-on-psychedelic Thurston Moore-led, mid-period Sonic Youth. Watery shoegazing verses give way to Jade Tree Records-style post hardcore choruses. Snappier, more upbeat melodies emerge through the playful bass and strumming guitar interplay on "Anesthesia" and "No Mistakes." The album closes, as it began, with a chunky distorted slice of punk that nicely bookend the record.

Through all the `90s musical references, one thing that stands out is Kris Hilbert of Legitimate Business' clean production. Sure, there's distortion, but the vocals are high enough in the mix to remain audible. The abum sounds good on my laptop speakers and in the car while similar records that were actually recorded in the `90s are often harsh and nearly unlistenable via MP3 (some of the original Superchunk albums are painful to listen to on my iPod. Yeah, I know some of these were reissued. Maybe I'll get around to getting them someday).

'Things Change" is charmingly lo-fi, but not in quality. It may wear its influences on its sleeve, but manages to sound new in this era.

The record is available digitally as well as on candy colored, two-color vinyl (see below). Also of note is that the release is a collaborative release between Tor Johnson Records, Lunchbox, and Self Aware Records.

Tonight's show starts at 10 p.m. and includes sets from Totally Slow, Del Rio, and Black Market. Admission is $5. You can also pick up a copy