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Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

andmoreagain presents

Narrow Head

with Wishy, Dazy

Time: 8:00PM

Admission: $20 adv / $22 day-of

Doors: 7:00PM

THIS IS GOOD STUFF!  Narrow Head is coming thru May 14th with Wishy and Dazy.  Check it out and come through.

Truly great pop songs do not require a cheery outlook in order to work, nor do they pander to expectations of syrupy sweet easy-listening. Rather, the best pop music is a matter of refinement and pure intention, of dialing groove to melody so that the two might puncture the malaise of everyday living in unison, revealing some brief, sober truth about our shared human condition. On their third LP, Moments of Clarity (Run for Cover), Narrow Head have achieved precisely this feat. Traversing the depths of massive, churning riffs, often distorted to the point of violence, bouncing, lock-grooved rhythms, and crystalline, gorgeously constructed hooks, the Houston-based outfit puts on a masterclass in the art of writing songs that match the pain, pleasure, and confusion of modern living. Each track is sentimental without being precious, heavy without unnecessary griminess, pop-forward without letting the listener off the hook easy: these songs ask for some form of hurt or desire to be paid back to them in return, some promise that the listener is putting equal skin into the game. The record’s title came to vocalist/guitarist Jacob Duarte in an ambient, almost haunting fashion. The months surrounding the release of their prior record, 12th House Rock (Run For Cover, 2020), were marked by a series of personal losses and spiritual trials. Throughout the writing process of this most recent record, the turn of phrase “moments of clarity” appeared to materialize wherever Duarte looked in an almost serendipitous fashion, be it while listening to the radio or talking with friends at the bar. The notion of moments clarity seemed to coalesce as if it were a totem to the desire to keep on living, a counterweight to the self-inflected damage and depravity that defined much of 12th House Rock’s lyrics. “The phrase created a space for me to reflect upon my own life,” Duarte admits, “since our last record I’ve had plenty of moments of realization like that… when you experience friends dying, you’re forced to see life a little differently.” Moments of Clarity reflects this matured sense of purpose. Longtime Narrow Head fans will undoubtedly still recognize the band’s signature marriage of brutality and grace, and many of the core themes of desolation, loss, and self-medication that the band established on their prior records Satisfaction (2016, re-issued by Run for Cover in 2021) and 12th House Rock (2020, Run for Cover) continue to haunt the edges of Moments of Clarity. All the same, Moment of Clarity rises above the darkness with a sense of elegant repose, like a butterfly-winged figure-skater skimming the hardened rim of a freezing black lake. While not exactly optimistic in outlook, these songs simmer with a certain life affirming desire, a burning passion to transcend pure cynicism and self-destruction, if only for even a few seconds. The record’s opening track, “The Real,” wastes no time establishing Moments of Clarity’s overarching themes, diving headfirst into the pains and pleasures of carrying on living, as well as the unending struggle of attempting to approach honest self-reflection. The song’s streamlined chorus, “how good does it feel, to be you, to be real?,” strikes like a double-entendre, reading equally as a dose of softened, self-deprecating cynicism, as well as a sigh of ecstatic relief at having reached a temporary state of weightlessness. These are the competing thematic poles which the ensuing entirety of Moments of Clarity straddles: bleak solitude gushing into the sudden tranquility of an unexpected oasis, loneliness becoming communion, communion becoming loneliness once more. The title track evokes images of numbed psyches and deep loathing, yet all the while holds out a sense of forgiveness in not knowing how to get better, a sense of forgiveness in the fact that, “it’s ok to say you want more.” Certain tracks carve out space to celebrate the faith and recognition found in the company of others (“You fall into me, Caroline, don’t go” – “Caroline”), while others plunge the listener back into the thickets of desperate reclusiveness (“Alone again is time well spent, alone forever falling” – “Gearhead”), dashing any sense of permanent bliss, yet without moralizing the desire to want this bliss all the same. A sense of cold stillness permeates the record’s lyrics, evoking the learned grace one inherits from staring down the pains of living without fully succumbing to them. As Duarte sings on the penultimate track “The Comedown”: “For what it’s worth I’m turning over, and you should know I’m growing older. I lost myself, and it feels so good.” This newfound lust for life is baked into the essence of the songs themselves. Each riff, melody, and drum fill has been rigorously constructed and pushed towards its most simplified, base instinct. There are no frills or unnecessary ornamentation, only pure sensation in the absence of conscious thought. Duarte credits the presence of Sonny DiPerri (NIN, Protomartyr, My Bloody Valentine), who recorded, mixed, and produced the record, with elevating Narrow Head’s sound. Prior to recording, the band spent a week with DiPerri at a house in Sherman, TX, reworking and refining the record with a sense of surgical intent, sculpting each melody and hook until it had reached its logical conclusion. “Sonny really pushed us early on,” Duarte notes, “he’d sit us down and say, ‘you guys are heavy, these choruses are good, but you shouldn’t be afraid to take this all the way and make it an actual pop song.’” The band then relocated with DiPerri to Jeff Friedl’s (Devo, A Perfect Circle) home-studio in Los Angeles, where they completed the tracking of the record under the reprieve of an uncharacteristically mild Californian late-summer. The addition of Kora Puckett (Solo, Bugg, Sheer Mag), who was promoted from touring guitarist to permanent band member following the release of 12th House Rock, further bolstered the writing process, expanding the band’s traditional songwriting trio of Duarte, guitarist William Menjivar, and drummer Carson Wilcox and pushing the songs towards a broader-minded, arrangement-by-committee register. An ecstatic sense of group cohesion shines through in each individual performance. The songs on Moments of Clarity lurch and pulse with a sense of breathless, single-minded determination, reflecting the fine-tuned tightness of a band coming off of a heavy touring cycle for 12th House Rock that saw them play alongside the likes of Quicksand, Turnstile, Gatecreeper, Chubby and the Gang, Young Guv, and Fury. The band eschews any sort of overt reliance upon studio effects in order to convey dynamic shifts, leaning instead upon the strength of the songwriting itself, as well as their intimate familiarities with one another as musicians, to carry the momentum of each track directly. Both the band’s collective synergy and intense sense of purpose help to propel the songs on Moments of Clarity to soaring new highs. The title track tunnels through a thick morass of sticky rhythms like a mechanical worm before finally emptying out into the light of day, exposing a melody so triumphant and stadium-sized in its confidence that it almost seems to channel the ghosts of Knebworth 1996. “Caroline” captures the band at their most nakedly pop-inflected moment yet, washes of melodics and A/B song-structures subsumed in an ocean-spray of glimmering distortion, creating an effect akin to a teenage emo kid on trucker speed discovering the primal joy of The Cleaners From Venus for the first time. On the other end of Moments of Clarity’s sonic spectrum, “Gearhead” finds Narrow Head approaching new depths of heaviness. Fueled by a massive riff that nods towards the pure evil, “everything is bigger in Texas” attitude of their friends in Power Trip, Iron Age, and Mammoth Grinder, the band unravels syncopated bursts of pummeling kinetic energy, weaving between subtly gripping melodies and utterly bleak breakdowns in unison like a cracking digital whip. Solitude, melancholy, and revelation bleed into each other throughout the LP, transporting the listener through a vast terrain of emotional spaces, from industrial drum samples and erotic self-sabotage (“Flesh and Solitude”), to drawling Midwestern-inflected depression and acoustic guitars that evoke the hum of dawn as it breaks in a freezing living room (“Breakup Song”; “The Comedown”), to synth lines that sound like a ghost fizzing through the speakers of an empty Coney Island parking lot (“The World”) and melon-twisting drum machine pulses (“Soft to Touch”). With Moments of Clarity, Narrow Head dashes away any shadow of romantic nostalgia or indulgent self-deprecation. Channeling equal parts pop-star cockiness and weathered sobriety, the band has, in the truest and most basic sense, arrived at a record that only they could have written. Moments of Clarity does not speak to or build upon the past. Rather, it cuts straight to the heart of the matter, taking the struggle, brilliance, and mystery of contemporary life as its direct subject.

Introducing Wishy, a brand new band from celebrated Indiana songwriters Kevin Krauter and Nina Pitchkites. Wishy came to life as a musical partnership between the two Indianapolis musicians when Pitchkites moved back home from Philadelphia in 2021. The two bonded over their love for 90s alternative bands like The Sundays and My Bloody Valentine and soon began crafting their own brand of swirling pop-rock with an introspective, grungy flair. By day Krauter works as a music teacher, giving drum and guitar lessons to students, while Pitchkites is a seamstress by trade and often makes embroidered merch for the band. While Krauter spent the better part of the last decade cementing his place as a torchbearer of Midwestern dream pop with 2018’s Toss Up and 2020’s Full Hand, Pitchkites delved into her own indie electro-pop project Push Pop, writing songs like “Spinning” that would later be reworked for Wishy. To round out the live band, Pitchkites and Krauter enlisted guitarist Dimitri Morris, bassist Mitch Collins, and drummer Conner Host. Across two trips to Los Angeles in late 2022 and early 2023, Krauter and Pitchkites linked up with friend and producer Ben Lumsdaine, who had some spare time between Durand Jones tours to record the pair’s newly written songs. The result of their fruitful time in sunny California is the aptly named Paradise, a breezy and melodic EP that puts on full display the songwriter’s musical fluency. Tastefully blending shoegaze, dreampop, and alt-rock into a heavenly haze, Wishy delivers a strong 5-song introduction that’s dense with melodic earworms and stirring sentiment. Wishy’s debut single for new label home Winspear, the driving and distorted “Donut,” showcases Pitchkites’ hypnotic vocal and Krauter’s melancholic wash of guitars. Written after a period when Pitchkites was driving on a spare, “Donut” laments the cynical capitalism of Midwest living and the reliance on a car to get around. Of the song Pitchkites says “When you’ve got the possibility of the open road plus the limitations of your shitty car–and you’re stuck driving on a donut spare tire– it’s a Catch 22.”

Throughout Paradise, the band laments on American loneliness and idealism as it relates to our everyday lives. Across the EP’s five tracks, Pitchkites and Krauter trade bittersweet reflections on love and self actualization over vast, scrappy guitar chords. The whole thing feels equally indebted to early aughts alt-rock and ‘90s jangle pop. Wishy’s music is cathartic, yet underlined by a subtle brooding energy—sitting nicely alongside the work of their contemporaries like Momma or Tanukichan, both of whom Wishy will have shared the stage with, Big room hooks with bedroom production. That’s the ethos of James Goodson, the, well, everything behind Dazy. Since releasing his first single in August of 2020, the Richmond, VA-based songwriter has been using Dazy as a vehicle to make the kind of music that he always wanted to hear, and he’s been making a lot of it. By the following August, Dazy had already put out enough material to release MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD: The First 24 Songs (Convulse Records), a sprawling collection of the project’s first year. Now, Goodson has set his turn-and-burn approach to the side in service of crafting something that was initially antithetical to his whole mission: Dazy’s debut full-length, OUTOFBODY. “A lot of Dazy has been about pushing myself out of my comfort zones, and at first that just meant finally putting out new music at all,” he explains. “I’ve always played in bands and made music, but before Dazy I’d been sort of stuck for a while. I never stopped writing songs but I wasn’t sure what to do with them, and they were piling up on my computer for years.” The project’s flurry of early releases was Goodson’s way of shaking off the nerves about sharing music with the public. “There’s something about doing singles or EPs and putting things out quickly that helped me rip the bandaid off–I also just think they’re fun,” he says. “But once I got into a rhythm with that, I felt like I had to push myself again to make an actual album.” Released by Lame-O Records, along with a cassette version from Convulse Records, OUTOFBODY walks a sonic line between the two labels. There are the loud, noisy, abrasive tones you’d expect from a record on Convulse, and the rich, textured harmonies of a Lame-O band. That’s because Goodson doesn’t take influence from one scene; instead, he set his sights on entire eras. “I think I just wanted to take the initial concept of the band–which was referencing what big-room rock music was 30 or 40 years ago, but asking, ‘What if you made that at home?’–and push that as far as it could go,” he says. “I think that’s the Dazy sweet spot: trying to make songs that feel big but using means that are a little rougher.” And so, despite the inherently more ambitious nature of making a full-length, Goodson took his usual approach at home, in the spare bedroom, with a couple of small amps and Garageband. After narrowing down the potential tracklist from over 100 songs, he spent countless hours writing, recording, and obsessively tinkering. The songs were then sent to Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr., Wild Pink, The Pixies), with whom he’d been working since the first Dazy release, to be mixed and mastered. In 12 songs and just over 25 minutes, OUTOFBODY answers the question of what if a Ramones album was a collaboration with Kevin Shields. The songs are short, punchy, and so melodically sweet that it almost makes you wish the band name Sugar wasn’t already taken—though Bob Mould’s interest in alt-rock and drum machines is a pretty good reference point, too. The record incorporates Goodson’s love of punk, college rock, Britpop, and jangle pop to expand upon Dazy’s initial goals: the guitar fuzz is still thick and the drum machines are thumping, but there are also quiet, tender moments. Songs like “Split” and “AWTCMM?” set introspection to bouncy backbeats and buzzsaw guitars, while the softer “Rollercoaster Ride” and “Motionless Parade” serve as dynamic counterpoints with prominent acoustic 12-string and mellotron. Elsewhere “On My Way” and “Ladder” emphasize how key the rhythmic component is to Dazy’s sound. “A lot of my biggest influences come from the ‘80s and ‘90s because bands were throwing rock guitars in with dancy drum beats or keyboards or whatever–just all these different things existing together,” he says. “I love rock music tropes but I also love that they’re more malleable than you might think.” That musical approach bolsters Goodson’s lyrical concerns on OUTOFBODY. “Some of the songs are from years ago, and some were written as I was recording–but I noticed that a lot of them seem to be about feeling pulled in different directions, or this sense of your life becoming more compartmentalized,” Goodson explains. The title track opener lays those themes bare from its very first lines (“Is that my voice leaving my own mouth? / Double check the source, cuz I’ve got reason to doubt”), the uncertainty contrasting with the song’s assuredly cacophonous ending. “I think a lot of times as you get older, you feel pushed towards ‘Who are you? What is your thing?’ when the reality is everybody is so many different things and always changing,” Goodson says. Life’s constant shifts seem to occupy much of OUTOFBODY; the stomping verses of “Deadline’’ give way to dreamy choruses about always feeling pressed for time, while the refrain of “Choose Yr Ramone” (“Time relentless / I’m still senseless”) walks a line between self-awareness and self-deprecation. By the time OUTOFBODY’s closer “Gone” reaches its end, with mellotron strings, interwoven vocal melodies, and a musical callback to the opener, you get the feeling that Dazy is limitless. The song sounds anthemic but undeniably wistful, while the lyrics caution against the lure of nostalgia, instead embracing life’s cumulative effect: the past that helped shape you, the future you’re hoping for, and the present that you have to grapple with regardless. “I think a lot of life is just feeling unsure or pulled in different directions, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Goodson says. “If you’re lucky, you’ll get to go in as many of those directions as you want.”

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