Onward, Soldiers — Monsters. Out 2/21, Winoca Records, unless you’re in Raleigh, in which case out 1/26, at the Pour House.
The Alpha Site has had a copy of Monsters in my car for a few weeks now, and when we were driving home from somewhere last week, we were talking about why it’s good. It’s not original, shep. said, but they also don’t sound like anybody else, which is why they’re good. Which was the best description of the Wilmington, NC, quartet that I could have thought of myself; taken individually every slice of music on this record isn’t necessarily new. But Onward, Soldiers either puts them together in a new way, or a surprising way, or the song that lies over the familiar music is sharp and clever. Sean Gerard Thomas is one of the best songwriters in the state of North Carolina, and his writing, which was catchy and interesting on debut LP Ghosts In This Town is visibly more adult and subtle on this disc.
It’s the variety of sound that pulls me in, after Thomas’s lyrics; opener “Telling Nobody” is fiercely dark and full of lush piano runs, while “Cinder Blocks” is lyrically heartwrenching against a chorus that will stay in your head for days, with your brain unaware of just how sad the song is, at its heart. It’s an album about moving on, and loss, and where on some songs that’s evident, the best — like “Cinder Blocks” — are the songs where you almost can’t tell the song is devastating under its hook-filled guitars and driving drums. “Highway Calling” has a cowpunk feel to it; “Monsters” is a sweetly noir-pop love song, in a strange way. “Cry” is as close to country as Onward, Soldiers gets. No two songs sound alike; no two sets of lyrics are similar in content or structure, except for that run of loss.
It is, by far, my favorite album that has been released in 2012, by about a mile. If you’re in the Triangle, Onward, Soldiers celebrates the release with Hammer No More The Fingers and J Kutchma this Thursday, 1/26, at the Pour House. Doors 8PM, show 9PM. $10. Be there.