Pleasant: Pleasant


[Self-released; 2001/re-released Dec. 2021]

Since the INDY published my retrospective of local indie bands from the year 2000, I’ve been reminded of several strong contenders I overlooked. The one I really kicked myself for was Pleasant, a band I loved, and never forgot. Instead, I wrongly concluded that they came along a little too late because the only trace they left online was one lonely NPR stream from 2006. My lapse had the best possible outcome, though.

The Pleasant discography has been added to Bandcamp, and it’s still some of the most effortlessly unique indie rock Chapel Hill ever produced. Maria Albani, who now plays in Organos and helps run the Potluck Foundation collective, pieced Pleasant together in 1999, then volunteered to play bass—which, in the Laura Ballance of Superchunk mold, she didn’t really know how to play.

Pleasant’s final LP, Awkward as a Beehive (2005), is their most professional work, with polished production by Zeno Gill and Jeff Byrd. Their self-titled EP (2002) leads with “Come On,” a great showcase for singer Sean Parker’s chain reactions of blown-out vowels, capering fricatives, neurotic falsettos, and hissing sibilants. But their inspired self-titled debut LP (2001) is the only place to start.

At this point, the band included Albani, Parker on vocals and guitar (not to mention autoharp, singing saw, and xylophone), Mario Gonzalez on guitar and keyboard, Eric Hermann on percussion, and Amy Rogers (sister of Nora Rogers of Object Hours) on violin and cello. Most of them sang, too, and the result is catchy, turbocharged chaos. The songs are antic, nervous, and winsome; they herk, jerk, rush headlong in new directions. Melodies boing out of twitchy rhythms like springs popping through a mattress as Parker vomits torrents of sparkly confetti.

His vocal tics can now be heard in Knurr and Spell, while Albani, bass skills well in hand, is a vet of too many bands to name, and it’s great to hear this lost chapter steaming and screaming back onto the record like a runaway toy train.

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