Various artists 

American Idylls

★★★★

Sorry State Records; Mar. 8

For almost fifteen years, Sorry State Records has been a vital conduit for North Carolina’s thriving, if mostly underground, punk scene. Growing from a DIY imprint to an online retailer and, ultimately, into a physical landmark in downtown Raleigh, Sorry State has been an indispensable resource for local bands looking to devour new influences and spread their own songs to a wider audience. 

With the sprawling, forty-nine-track compilation American Idylls, Sorry State plants a flag for N.C. punk, highlighting the diverse sound and unified intensity of the scene’s current moment. In his introduction to the thirty-two-page zine that accompanies the album, Sorry State founder Daniel Lupton acknowledges both the limitations and ambitions of the project. 

“Like a photograph, this snapshot includes things, leaves others out, and captures only one fleeting moment,” he writes. Noting bands on the compilation that have broken up between recording and release, others that formed too recently for inclusion, and still others that exist just beyond American Idylls’ punk-driven scope, Lupton makes the perennial case for local scene documentation. 

“There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in this state,” he writes. “There probably is where you live, too, if you take the time to look.”

The record does more than enough to prove the assertion. There’s plenty of feral hardcore, with acts like Vittna, Scarecrow, and Oxidant sticking to the genre’s explosive and visceral foundations. But American Idylls readily strays from formulas. Public Acid, Drugcharge, and Mind Dweller inject psychedelic fringes into their hardcore blitzes. Concussion veers toward Ramones-y power-pop, while Natural Causes offers a synth-driven blast of Screamers-esque anxiety. Fitness Womxn opt for spartan post-punk that bristles with poignant anger, while DE()T shades its outbursts with noise-rock guitar squalls and industrial synths. 

Citing the iconic comps This Is Boston Not L.A. and Thrash Til Death, Lupton aimed to create a platform for bands to submit multiple songs, offering a better sample of their capabilities than a single cut could offer. In total, nineteen bands contributed exclusive songs to fill the compilation’s ninety-minute runtime. And yet, despite the sheer volume of contributions and the range they display, American Idylls feels singular. Like the yearbook-style photos at the back of the inserted zine, the music shows a common wellspring of inspiration, expressed in diverse and exciting ways. American Idylls makes a strong case that the local punk scene has rarely, if ever, sounded better.

music@indyweek.com