Suah Sounds; Apr. 12
Album release show: Friday, Apr. 12, 8 p.m., $10
Local 506, Chapel Hill
There’s no denying that Reese McHenry’s voice is a powerful instrument. She’s a tightly coiled bundle of kinetic energy, constantly driven to find the next word, the next note, the next sound, often before the last one has ended or even really fully sounded. She doesn’t sustain notes as much as propel them, imbuing them with a highly charged, electromotive force. Within a single note, she’ll employ her seemingly endless vocabulary of sounds: dips, swoops, various gradations of growls and roars, a wide vibrato she can turn on or off on cue, subtle rises before a note even starts, and on and on. She’ll overshoot a note only to slide back to it at the last minute, push ahead of the beat, drag behind the beat, ignore the beat entirely.
All of these elements are on full display on No Dados, her second album since returning to musical life after nearly a decade recovering from a stroke and series of major medical setbacks. Backed by Durham’s Drag Sounds—who temporarily leave behind their nervy, Television-esque rockers to unleash their inner garage band—McHenry rages her way through thirteen tight rockers about the many ways that love falls apart. Her songwriting is as tight as ever, confirming that she’s one of the great practitioners (alongside Ashevillians Greg Cartwright and Don Howland) of that unruly thing we call “garage rock”—that mix of Nuggets-esque psych rock, girl-group pop, Motown and Stax, surf, power pop, and seemingly the entirety of pre-British Invasion rock.
There’s the girl-group coo in the intro of “Detroit,” where she stretches the word “home” into something like seven dejected syllables. “Bye Bye Baby” is one giant flick of the wrist, where she leans into the “wrong” notes for just a little too long as the band chants underneath. And when she sings in unison with a bending guitar solo, the effect is totally delirious. It can sometimes seem like she’s careening around the room with a sloppy swagger that has been compared (lazily) to Janis Joplin. But McHenry is anything but out of control; she knows exactly what she’s doing, inflecting every word she sings with just the right set of sonic affects. So when she lets some notes through, unadorned—like in the sweet opening of “Can You Say?”—the effect is ecstatic. She is clearly having a blast, and every song brims with fresh joy.