Matthew Park used to front the charged and sweet pop outfit Veelee, but in the wake of that band’s end he’s built another great North Carolina band, the heavier yet more infectious Airstrip. Park brought in players from bands that deal in everything from gauzy pop (Gross Ghost) to Southern-fried turns on psych-metal (Horseback, Caltrop), and the results are fittingly dark, though also suffused with light and propulsive energy at every turn. Park and company can shift from the crashing build-ups and lean riffs of “Pleasure Center” to the shadowy grind of “Middle of the Night” to the angles and negative space of “Bitching Hour” without missing a beat.
Park’s voice is charming and unassuming, a perfectly warm center to the lean hooks and chilling atmospheres created around him. Despite all the heft of their sound, the band never slouches under its own weight, never stagnates. “So So” starts with stripped bare melodies but erupts into shimmering pop excess, while “I Hit a Wall” is a bright blast of unadulterated power-pop, injecting all this power with a sunburst of pure joy. In just over a half-hour, Airstrip covers more musical ground than most bands do in their entire career. Willing is the sound of landing in a strange new place, or launching into some scary unknown. No wonder they call themselves Airstrip.