Space Interpreting
respect the architect

The start of something

There's a good chance that it's still chilly wherever you are, but around my way, spring has officially sprung. The advent of North Carolina's spring is something of an endurance test - seventy degree days audaciously assert themselves as early as February, bookended by that month's more characteristic wintery bluster, and everyone gets sick. By March, the ratio is reversed, with occasional days of comparitively brutal cold confusing the dogwoods in mid-blossom. It's been strictly t-shirts for a week, and already, one detects the billowing clouds of pollen mounting on the horizon like a swarm of angry locusts, a premonitory itch deep in the sinuses. The editorial sections of various alt-weeklies swell with seasonal rhapsodies, belles-lettres of the purplest hue. Seemingly affronted by this verdant invasion, maniacal suburbanites subscribe to the doctrine of overwhelming force, deploying an arsenal of huge and terrible engines that roar like angry gods against each trembling blade of grass.

But besides the nasal discomfort, breathless encomia, and deranged property owners, spring has a lot to recommend it. The co-eds of UNC, Duke and NC State all leave for spring break, gracing Chapel Hill with a pleasing quietude in their absence, and a feverish hormonal energy when they return, tan-lined and half-naked. You don't usually have to plan your outfits for 70 degree days that spill into 40 degree nights, as in fickle February. And trite as it is to reiterate, the re-awakening of the natural world can't help but inspire a similar constitutional shift in all but the most hardened cynics. As the slate-grey skey opens into an impossible blue, so do new enthusiasms flourish from the stoic stalemate of winter, and suddenly, my trap-hop mixtapes are getting sidelined in favor of the wildest flights of fancy.

Did I just write a breathless encomium to spring? At least I stopped before I got to wisteria, honeysuckle and dandelion milk.

So obviously I have a new girlfriend and it's spring and sappiness both literal and metaphorical is the order of the day - and I found Voxtrot, a Texas band that has quietly become my overriding musical passion over the past few weeks, at the perfect time. I don't go in for all twee - the heavily stylized and kistchy take on it (a la The Boy Least Likely To) usually leaves me cold. I like twee pop that shoots heart-tipped arrows straight from the hip, relying on winning melodies, willfully naive lyrics, and glossy yet shopworn arrangements for their charm. So give me Belle and Sebastian (whose live version of their monstrously swooning "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying" is posted above), Morrissey (whose wintry music holds up surprisingly well in the spring, and whose new single [which I reviewed for Pitchfork but am not posting - sorry] promises more of the same from You Are the Quarry), and now, Voxtrot, which finds a happy medium between the two and leavens it with patches of early-Cure's serious, stately guitar rock.

"The Start of Something" is the standout on an EP full of standouts, with its haymaker of a melody and ridiculously romantic lyrics. "I'm a love letter away" sometimes made winter-Brian groan, and admittedly, in romantically rockier times, I remember thinking that "form letter" would be more appropriate. The substitution of "like" for the more common "love" in the "It's just 'cause I like you" refrain forsakes the gravity of adulthood for adolescent whimsy. To top it off, Voxtrot manages to convincingly drop a grandiose rock breakdown into their fluffy puree like a cold snap in a balmy NC March, with all of the surprise and only a trace of respiratory difficulty.