Chapel Hill slacker-pop champs Embarrassing Fruits have been quiet for a while, so it’s nice to hear new material from frontman Joe Norkus. And it’s not surprising that his new EP is really good – Norkus is quite the songwriter. Yet where this could seem like the start of a new chapter in his involvement in local music, that’s not the case He’s moving to Richmond, and this will be the last local show for some time.
Where 2009’s home-recorded, lo-fi gemDigital Hiss EP fit its name, the new eponymous one is a studio record. And Nick Petersen, who mixed and mastered it, gives the songs room to breathe – as he’s done beautifully with numerous local records. “Decide” has a honky tonk shuffle and a casual, Wilco-esque guitar character – yet Norkus’ conversational vocal delivery keep this tune from landing in the Tom Petty camp. And “Time” brings at least the candid, unadorned sentiment of lo-fi bedroom rock – if not the sound. “I wanna be famous/ I wanna be on Pitchfork.com,” he sings. “But that’s not gonna happen/ and I’m running out of options.” Short-form closer “Long Night,” with its doo-wop swing, makes the most direct statement in this direction: “I’m tired of writing songs no one will hear.”
The balance between self-effacement and honest appraisal of the challenges of a hard-working musician match perfectly with the country-tinted indie rock. And Sunday he’ll play the Nightlight, backed by members of Butterflies, Midtown Dickens, and Jenny Besetzt, before leaving for Richmond.
As intimate as it is, Norkus’ new EP is traveling music, and we wish him well.