Pacer – Big Buildings, Small Stars

Big Buildings, Small Stars

Much more focused than their earlier work, Big Buildings, Small Stars finds this North Carolina band truly developing their unique voice and creating some fine indie-pop. In fact, were the year 1996, it wouldn’t be difficult to see them joining some lofty “alternative” bands with high aspirations from North Carolina. It’s clear the duo of Jeremy Matthews (guitar, vocals) and Kim Ware-Matthews (drums, vocals) approaches their music with a similar mindset.
All the elements here have probably been done before, but Pacer have a very unique sound that makes this album a fun listen. They’re willing to change things up at the drop of a hat, going from subtle, melancholy songs to hook-laden pop songs willingly and churning out strong songs regardless. They even have recorded what may be my favorite anthemic indie pop song of the year, but we’ll get to that shortly.
The album starts with the melancholy and soft “Reunion (at 74)” with a bit of a country sound from Kim’s vocals, but the second track, the poppy “Workin Too Hard,” is much more akin to their sound. Straight-ahead guitar pop, light and airy yet catchy, Jeremy takes the lead on this song reminiscent of early Yo La Tengo. Then the two together join vocals on the slightly eerie rhythm-led “She Makes.” The catchy, jangly “Song About It” is contrasted by the slow and somewhat dreamy “Find the Time.”
My favorite song here is “Aquarium.” Something about the atmosphere created through slightly echoed vocals and the guitars gives me the urgent feeling of an old Throwing Muses tune, only more catchy. I love this track. Again the band changes styles with the slyly countrified “Good in it All,” the somewhat dreamy-pop of “100 Million,” and the playful, jangly guitar of “Telemarket.” “Sad Girl” is a sweet, slow song that allows Kim’s vocals to shine, and Jeremy takes the lead on the similarly sweet sounding “Western Shore” to close off the album.
Pacer’s album is decidedly lo-fi and simple in feel. The instruments are presented without any great layering effects and studio tweaks. Their voices aren’t perfect, but kind of playful. You get the guitar, drum, bass, and vocals that you’d expect and nothing more. That lets the songs themselves shine, whether slower or fast and catchy. This pair of musicians has a lot of great music in them, and I’m going to be excited to hear more.