Dissimilar South 

Treehouse

★★★★

Self-released; May 3 

Dissimilar South is graduating college. The group formed in 2015 as a freewheeling, loudly queer, earnestly political Americana outfit, fostered in casual dorm-room jams at UNC-Chapel Hill. Rebecca Chaisson (harmonica, percussion) and Maddie Fisher (mandolin) graduated last year, while Blake Dodge (banjo) and Carter Hodge (guitar, banjo) are about to do the same. Their debut EP, Treehouse, produced by Mipso’s Wood Robinson at Nightsound Studios in Carrboro, marks this occasion with five coming-of-age songs that are tender, introspective, and fresh. 

On the 1995 song “Screwing Your Courage,” Jody Bleyle of seminal queercore band Team Dresch sang of the satisfaction of watching one’s body come to reflect one’s gender and sexuality more authentically (“It’s summer / The hair’s grown in on my upper thigh / Just like so much corn / In late July”). Dissimilar South also uses time and seasons as subtle markers of evolving personal identity, with the effort of change expressed as equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. 

On the atmospheric dirge “Distance,” Chaisson reflects on a stale relationship by recalling the sensations of early infatuation at a backyard fire. Opener and standout “Hold Me Close” begins with a plucky, bittersweet banjo melody that’s as expressive as the lyrics are reserved. Hodge worries resignedly about how a changing self affects relationships with others, singing, “Turn my mind to a time where I was kinder / Willing to share my life.” The other band members chime in on the chorus, a heartbreaking, supportive farewell: “So hold me close / I’ll let you go.” 

Treehouse is a warm and spacious recording, with carefully interlaced mandolin and banjo and lively percussion, but the vocal harmonies get special emphasis. The members back one another up beautifully on everything from the polished pop-country of “Moving On” to the playful, Righteous Babe-esque vocal gymnastics of “Wake Up.” Though each member is a songwriter and lead vocal duties are split, the EP is cohesive. 

Youth is a funny thing: We are equally cocky and unsure, ricocheting between our childhood memories and our fantasies of the future. On Treehouse, these conflicting feelings are deftly captured. 

music@indyweek.com


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