Slow Runner

I feel sorry for folks who don’t understand how rich and diverse music south of the Mason-Dixon line is. Yes, we get it – Americana reigns king. I guess maybe it’s not sexy enough, or maybe it doesn’t fit the narrative people would like to create, but the diversity throughout the region, especially in the Carolinas, is exciting. Honestly, maybe more so than other regions of the US. Hip-hop, revivalist post-punk, pure indie rock, the always strong metal community… heck, there’s even a budding electronic scene. And let’s not forget the indie pop sounds springing up, especially those being brought to you by Slow Runner.

Poised for stronger outcomes to a career that’s already burgeoning, the duo of singer/songwriter Michael Flynn and man of many talents (and instruments) Josh Kaler continue this upward trend with New Monsters. This all kicks off with more genuinely unmitigated alt pop. There’s a bit of piano and some communal claps to “My Love Will Bring You Back,” and you can’t help but feel like you’re being embraced. It’s quite a way to open an album, and then the gears change a little bit on “Me + 1 + 1” to a post-emo landscape of fuzzy electronic. You’ll be kept bouncing; you’ll even get a bit out of control at times. I don’t know what to dub this musically – maybe Southernthronica, but when it’s clear that the duo are arriving at the party with the expressed intent of raising some hell, you don’t worry too much about labels like that.

Unsettled with those areas of sound, the self-titled track is gritty, synthed out wooziness. There’s dusk-tinged sensuality that builds up the moment of togetherness, and the harmonies, anchored by the strength of the female vocals, send shivers through your entire body. There’s a definite depth to the track that led me to keep repeating a lot of the track to attempt to peel it all back. After that, well, really, great power pop brews throughout the whole album, but that pop is extra fine on “Trigger Warning.” An ability to create a scene and let it linger is present throughout New Monsters (see: “Bike Thieves” and “Sad Flashback from a Happy Movie”). Normal framing of songwriting is turned around and shaped into an unconventional standard not concerned with semantics, and it’s one of the many facets that makes Slow Runner so exciting.

If you wanted to create a box or framework to plunk some tracks into though, you could place “Happy Flashback from a Sad Movie” and “Arm’s Length” into an electro-rock bubble, but why would you want to do that? “Happy Flashback…” is a track that is so distinctive in tone and atmosphere that it has to stand out as an album highlight. More sparkle is present throughout this beautiful landscape, and the production is a little warbled, yet it refuses to use the voice as a crutch to break the moment.

Closing out the album is “Perfectly Fine.” Interestingly enough, it seems like the album is done in an emotionally reverse manner given the more positive origin of it all. Flynn and Kaler insist on you understanding they’re doing okay, but you kind of think they’re just going to keep staying at the current pace and hope it holds up – at least on this track anyway. Not too convincing, but melodiously believable. Why fight with it?

As always, the best place to grab new music is from the source. In this case, you can pick up New Monsters from Hearts & Plugs today. Joey Smith