★★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
North Carolina’s musical history is flush with underground heroes, which makes the current moment being enjoyed by formerly low-flying locals Spider Bags feel even more revelatory. But Frozen Letter, the band’s first full-length for hometown heroes Merge Records, is far from a hesitant debut – instead, its eight songs, which are split neatly into a hard-charging Side A and a more exploratory Side B, feel like an assured shove into the long-overdue spotlight for Dan McGee, Steve Oliva and Rock Forbes. Opener “Back With You Again in the World” was the clear choice for Frozen Letters’ lead single, as ricocheting honky-tonk guitars and deep bass grooves back McGee’s crooning plea to “Do what I promised/And do what is true.” Drone-inducing blues add back-end heft on “We Got Problems” and “Eyes of Death,” while “Japanese Vacation” is Tom Petty updated for our fuck-it-all times (the pre- and post-song banter littering Frozen Letter proves how much fun Spider Bags have plying their trade). Yet it’s the counterpoint of the thrashy “Summer of ’79” with the ghoulish freak-folk of “Coffin Car” that highlights the timeless promise of Frozen Letter and the bright future prospects of Spider Bags.