I’d been hearing a few people singing the praises of Red Collar’s latest full-length, Pilgrim, before I ever had a chance to hear the record for myself. That’s the kind of set up that can lead to high expectations. Pilgrim, however, managed to exceed my expectations immediately. The band from Durham, North Carolina delivers an amazing, ambitious, and surprisingly complex album that combines jagged post-punk with heartland Americana that would make Springsteen smile. Just imagine Neil Diamond fronting Birdmonster while covering The Replacements. Red Collar could be the world’s most subversive bar band if they wanted to with their big anthemic hooks reminiscent of The Hold Steady and skronky angular guitars that remind me of Fugazi. It’s a strange juxtaposition that’s downright frantic and gnashing with energy. Whoever said I needed to check out this band (I’m not sure if it was Bryne or Jeff) was right. Pilgrim is one-of-a-kind and one heck of an exciting listen. One of 2009′s best for sure.