185 Clingman Ave. Asheville, NC 28801
– ALL AGES
– STANDING ROOM ONLY
MJ Lenderman is a songwriter born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina. The anatomy of an MJ record might go something like this: warped pedal steels and skuzzed out guitar; a voice reminiscent of the high-lonesome warble of a choirboy. Songs snake their way from a lo-fi home recording to something glossier made with longtime friends at Asheville’s Drop of Sun studios, but the recording setting doesn’t seem to matter much — at its core, a Lenderman song rings true.
These are stories about everything from a relationship disintegrating outside the high-end butcher shop to a sighting of football star Dan Marino at the local Harris Teeter; from a love song built around a t-shirt kiosk at the airport, or the malaise of a grill rusting in the rain. And those are just some of the things you might find across his three solo records: MJ Lenderman (2019), Ghost of Your Guitar Solo (2021), and break-through acclaimed studio debut, Boat Songs (2022). Lenderman’s songwriting is simple and true, stories delivered with a loping, easy vibe — a shrug of the shoulders, off-the-cuff guitar riffs fuzzy, a tangle of pedal steel and rock ‘n’ roll distortion culminating in alt-country cacophony. An MJ Lenderman song feels like a postcard from a hazy memory, the unpredictable bits and details that end up sticking — bird songs from the rafters of a hardware store, a real good Bob Dylan cover — and what make a story whole.
“I want to do what makes me feel like a kid: experimenting, having fun, and trying to discover new things about this work,” says Pile’s Rick Maguire about All Fiction. It’s his band’s eighth record, and one that finds the ambitious group assembling its most texturally complex material yet—despite the fraught inspiration underscoring its restive lyrics. Alongside the blistering drums and scorched-earth riffs that first galvanized Pile’s dedicated fanbase, the band has incorporated elegiac strings, mystifying vocal corrosions, and haunting synths. From the creeping fear of cinematic opener “It Comes Closer” to the euphorically ascending keys on ego-shattering closer “Neon Gray,” All Fiction is an ornate, carefully paced study on the subjectivity of perception, the data-shaping despotism of big tech, and the connections between anxiety and death. In its most vital moments, it’s also a resolute recommitment to the restorative significance of art and imagination.
For fifteen years, Pile’s evolving take on rock has earned the group one oft-repeated superlative: “your favorite band’s favorite band.” Ceaseless touring took its members from Boston’s basement circuit to international festivals, hitting loftier technical apexes with each new record. Maguire—the fastidious composer, evocative guitarist, and potent voice behind the solo-turned-punk project—gives musical body to his interior world in scream-along-able lyrics that skew surreal. Drummer Kris Kuss’s time-defying performances, layered over gnarled basslines, have garnered widespread acclaim. 2019’s Green and Gray took Pile’s thunderous noise to more intricate realms, thanks to new recruit Alex Molini’s work on bass and keyboards, and Chappy Hull’s dextrous interplay on second guitar. That record drew praise for its political directness and instrumental ferocity, but Pile’s seventh album was almost a wholly different endeavor—one on which Maguire would favor piano.