Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kooley High shares new song "Where I'm Going", announces 'Heights' EP

Kooley High will release 'Heights'
on Oct. 9 and will celebrate its
release on Oct. 16 at Kings Barcade
While historically North Carolina has been best known for our traditional roots and more recently our swiftly changing indie-rock scene, you'd have to be living under a rock to argue that the hip-hop scene isn't getting just as much notoriety. For every Love Language and Hiss Golden Messenger now lies a J. Cole or King Mez. The hip-hop spectrum almost perfectly mirrors that of the rock-leaning scene, a few nationally recognized acts help to shift the dynamic of the state's scene while a few headstrong acts push ever forward and leave expectations aside.

It'd be easy for acts to fall in line with the cultural trends we've seen that prove to be successful, but the acts in our scene that are gathering the most traction are those that blaze their own paths. That's why it's always exciting to hear what's to come from Kooley High. Kooley is a hip-hop collective that grew from the N.C. State cyphers and blossomed into one of the state's most established names. Former member Rapsody is swiftly becoming a household name thanks to features on tracks with Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, but don't for a second think that the loss of a member is slowing Kooley down at all.

"Where I'm Going," the recently release single from their forthcoming EP, Heights, proves that Kooley's sights are set forward both as a career trajectory but also musically. "Where I'm Going" is a track that highlights all of the group's finest aspects, a smooth buttery production that blends boom-bap styles with heady, jazzy J-Dilla influence and lends way to Tab-One and Charlie Smarts' lyrical acrobatics.

The thematic points of the track highlight Kooley's confidence as well as their forward-thinking attitudes. Tab opens the track with an effortless verse filled with quick rhymes and clever similes, never stuck on one pattern for too long. Guest vocalist Add-2 adds some versatility to the vocal cadence found on the track, but the lyricism shines brightest with Tab and Charlie Smarts. Smarts' verse boasts intricately arranged internal rhyme schemes that prove to be difficult to unravel without repeated listens. Voices blend together for a memorable hook that excellent summarizes the song's theme and rides along with Sinopsis' dreamy yet rhythmic production. Kooley's vibes feel reminiscent of acts like A Tribe Called Quest, but don't rely on a nostalgic factor to get attention, rather they feel like a call-back to these early hip-hop pioneers and elegantly maneuver their way into a modern-day context. Heights is released on Oct. 9th  and the group will celebrate their EP release with a show at Kings Barcade on Oct. 16th. Check out the track below:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shirlette Ammons premieres "Earth Intro" ft. Indigo Girls

Shirlette Ammons
Photo by Boris Niehaus
While you were probably out day-drinking and Hopscotching around last Friday, it's possible that you may have missed one of our state's most impressive emcees releasing one of her most progressive tracks to date. Last Friday Shirlette Ammons not-so-quietly released her new single, "Earth Intro" from her forthcoming sophomore album Language Barrier. "Earth Intro" debuted on arguably one of the largest Feminist media outlets, Bitch Media and marks a huge departure from Ammons' previous releases.

Featuring Emily Saliers and Amy Ray of the Grammy Award-winning act the Indigo Girls, "Earth Intro" is a track that contains multitudes. Aesthetically it lands at a frenetic blend between indie rock, folk rock and hip-hop with echos of punk rock influences abound. There's sharply spat vocals meshed with whirring yet distorted fiddle lines, rich dynamic changes and both inward and outwardly facing lyrical content. The way vocals have a slight distortion to them allows them to dig deep into the instrumentation and serve as much textural purpose as it does to forward the song's themes.

Ammons told Bitch Media that the Indigo Girls' "gorgeous songwriting" and "fierce harmonies" help lend an "anthemic" feel to "Earth Intro", giving a brief peek into the contributions brought forth by Saliers and Ray. Both of the Indigo Girls have been active in the environmental, gender equality and gay rights movements, perfectly coinciding with Ammons' own contributions to the social spectrum. You may remember Ammons' collaboration with Caitlin Cary (formerly of Whiskeytown), "My Body Politic" from NC Music Love Army's 2014 release. While working with folk songwriters isn't entirely out of Ammons' musical spectrum, it's exciting to see her ever-expanding boundaries of hip-hop and continually defying expectations of the genre. Ammons also noted that Meshell Ndegeocello and Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso will be serving as collaborators on Language Barrier, which is set for an early 2016 release. Check out the track below:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Video Premiere: "Broken Man" by Josh Moore

I'll never forget the moment I came upon Josh Moore's music. I was in the midst of filming Mandolin Orange's excellent Bottom String Session some years back and as the session was winding down, some bearded troubadour walked into the room, sat down, and stunned me with a cover of 'Long Black Veil.' After a second cover of "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down," I became enamored with this artist. A soothing voice and gently plucked acoustic guitar was truly all Moore needed to leave me transfixed and since then I've been pining to hear a record. I'd heard rumblings and whispers that Moore was diligently working on a full-length, but heard no confirmation. So obviously, once Moore's first track premiered a few weeks back on The Bluegrass Situation, I was beaming with excitement. Even moreso when I was approached to share a video from the album.

For years Moore has been at work with Jeff Crawford on the new album, but it wasn't until 2013 that he and a wide array of locals began recording his forthcoming album Parted Ways. "We broke ground on this album with a successive series of monthly early morning sessions that would wind down in the afternoon," Moore says, and throughout those sessions artists like Ryan Gustafson, James Wallace, Mark Simonson and Carter Gaj were frequent collaborators. Emily Frantz, Jacki Huntington, Heather McEntire, and Skylar Gudasz can be heard contributing vocal harmonies as well, making for an all-star congregation of local musicians for this heavily anticipated album.

For those unfamiliar with Moore's catalogue, he began as the vocalist for hardcore band Beloved, but upon moving to Carrboro became ensconced in the local folk scene. Moore came in around a time where several other heavier artists were turning down and tuning into the simpler sounds, and when you're surrounded by so many talented, like-minded individuals it's a natural progression to turn down that road. Citing artists like The Byrds, Doug Paisley and Gene Clark as musical reference points, Parted Ways finds Moore delving into a sound that's simultaneously classic yet contemporary. After several years without recording or performing, Moore had pent up emotions to work out and Parted Ways runs forth with a defined theme of blazing trails in new directions.

Moore is set to celebrate the release of Parted Ways at what's sure to be a jam-packed show at the Cat's Cradle Backroom on June 12th alongside Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC. Admission is $8 and you can buy tickets here.

Josh Moore- Broken Man from Thrown Stone Films on Vimeo.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Video Premiere: "Sweetheart I've Noticed" by Jackson Honeycutt

Being a part of such an incredible local music scene can be overwhelming at times. There's always something newer or something hipper, always folks in search of an act that's so fresh that their songs haven't even left the dank room they were recorded in. But every now and then it's nice to have musicians fall into your lap so to speak. There's no searching involved, just an instance of being in the right place at the right time, somehow fate decides to align and make these musical findings coalesce perfectly with a particular point in your life. Artists like Jackson Honeycutt are the perfect example of this.

The young songwriter from the Raleigh/Garner region already has a handful of LPs and EPs under his belt, albeit of the lo-fi variety, but nonetheless it's an impressive level of output for such a budding songwriter. Honeycutt blends traditional folk-pop sentiments with melancholy overtones to make for a listening experience as bright and infectious as it is downtrodden and blue. "Sweetheart I've Noticed" is a single that Honeycutt recently released that's been gaining the artist quite a bit of traction. The track's been in rotation at local music powerhouse WKNC as well as WSOE, Elon's college radio station.

Riding that wave of popularity, Honeycutt teamed up with local videographer Evan Kidd (responsible for the excellent Spazzfest documentary a few years back) to film a visual companion for "Sweetheart I've Noticed." Filmed in Garner, N.C., the video switches between scenes of Honeycutt aimlessly roaming around town on a rainy, gray-skied day and jovial, carefree days of youth spent at playgrounds and dance parties. The video perfectly represents the emotional dichotomy of Honeycutt's music and lyricism, leaving fans eager to see what's to come from this promising young songwriter. Check out the video below:

Jackson Honeycutt - "Sweetheart I've Noticed" (Official Music Video) from Evan Kidd on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Artist Feature: Temple5

Temple5 will be performing at Deep South in Raleigh
alongside NO9TO5 and Jswiss. Purchase tickets here
When one thinks of North Carolina hip-hop, thoughts don't usually stray towards Wilmington. Maybe the chart-topping J. Cole comes to mind or perhaps the more underground breakout acts like King Mez or Deniro Farrar, but certainly not an eastern North Carolina act. Temple5, however, is doing their damnedest to change that mindset. Temple5 is a seven-piece act that blends elements of hip-hop, jazz and funk to create one dazzling, rhythmically driven sound. While it's easy to lose yourself in the intricately arranged pieces that comprise these recordings, this is the kind of music that you need to see live to truly experience in its entirety. You've got to watch the very obvious chemistry that these musicians have together, feel the horns wash over you as the band's lyricist Louis. effortlessly weaves together ridiculous rhyme schemes that cover everything from socially conscious messages to clever punch lines. Temple5 will be performing at The Deep South Bar on Saturday, Jan. 31 alongside NO9TO5 and Jswiss, so in advance we spoke with members of the band on the intricacies involved with their music and what to expect from the band in 2015.

The creation of Temple5 was a very deliberate process, something that seems to be have been in the works for years on end. AJ Reynolds, saxophonist for the band, goes as far as saying that Temple5 was something he's wanted to do since the age of 16, but states but waited until he was 23 because that was when he felt like he and his peers could approach this band with "the artistry, maturity and ambition" required to make it what it should be. Deliberate may be an understatement when it comes to this band. Steeped in the tradition of acts like The Roots and The Robert Glasper Experiment, Temple5 has melded the new and the old together to create a jazzy take on hip-hop.

"I’ve found the ongoing process of acculturation that has been happening in America over the past 100+ years fascinating," states trumpeter Aaron Lane. "It started with early blues and jazz which was a fusion of African rhythm with Western harmony/instrumentation," he states, and from there the music has morphed into various widely different forms. These two forms have in some way or another influenced practically every wave of popular music and has risen to the top once again with hip-hop. Now as Lane states, we see that the hip-hop has begun to revert back to its origins, pulling heavy inspiration from the jazz, funk and soul that birthed the genre in the first place. And while the whole reverse acculturation thing is a large determining factor in the birth of new and innovative hip-hop, it also doesn't hurt that having a live band just makes a performance that much better.

"I think most of us in the band have gone to hip-hop shows and said to ourselves, 'man, it would be so dope to see a live band up here laying it down with the emcee,'” Reynolds states. And sometimes thoughts like that ignite a spark that erupts into something much larger than anyone could imagine. When you've got so many talented musicians together in one project (they all mostly met at the UNCW Music Department through various university ensembles and jazz combo/big band projects) then it's only a matter of time until things blossom into something that's truly unparalleled. Acts like The Beast have tapped into this in the Triangle, raising the socially conscious flag while laying down some serious grooves, and now it appears Temple5 has taken this torch for Eastern NC.

"We are a unique group of guys in a unique situation with a unique goal," Lane states, "to create and grow a local community through the positive message of hip-hop." With that goal in mind, all it takes is a brief listen through to the band's two previously released EPs to grasp how passionate this crew is about their message and how intent they are on getting it right. Strategic Arrival: The Statement marks the beginning of the band and finds them dipping their toes into the water, toying with Barack Obama speech clips that tackle socioeconomic woes. The Bap Is Eternal: The Argument, found the band diving deeper into the rabbit hole, with a dedicated emcee in Louis. the crew has started take a heavy lyrical focus while still producing acrobatic instrumentation. Their forthcoming full-length CompUtopia: The Solution promises to find the band in the perfect place, vibing together as a crew and ready to produce a definitive statement that relays both positivity and dance-inducing jams. When Lane describes the band's writing process he relays one simple notion, "either it grooves with people or it doesn't." Temple5 most definitely grooves.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oulipo announces new album "Kisses To The Sky" & shares track "Dolphins"

Oulipo have announced their forthcoming album
"Kisses to the Sky" and shared lead-single "Dolphins"
It's hard to recall a band that's been as interesting to watch as Oulipo. From the first listen of Primitive Ways it was pretty clear that the band had potential to tap into a truly unique and compelling musical niche. It's been nearly three years since the release of Primitive Ways and it's clear that the band has made monumental growth since then, just take a peek into the work they've shared with the public to prove it.

Back in September of 2014 the band released a music video for "Shine On You Crazy Bastard," a track that showcased a new-found sense of restraint and maturity in their songwriting. With a compelling and sparse use of sampling, sprawling instrumentation and soaring melodies, Oulipo re-appeared as a potential powerhouse. Now the band's announced details of their upcoming full-length Kisses To The Sky, and while the release date is still forthcoming, they have shared a brand new track from the album, "Dolphins."

Kisses To The Sky was recorded over the course of a year at Bit Heart Studios in Greensboro and mixed by the iconic producer Mitch Easter at the Fidelitorium (R.E.M., Pavement) in Kersnersville. Recently Easter has been behind some of the state's finest releases from artists like Mandolin Orange and Lilac Shadows, but he's also responsible for mastering upcoming releases from folks like See Gulls and Birds of Avalon. Needless to say all you have to do is sit back with a pair of headphones to fall in love with "Dolphins."

Vocalist Ryan Trauley's voice subtly slides into a slowly building groove, wistfully gliding atop a steady rhythm. Though the verse carries along downtempo, "Dolphins" erupts into a triumphant chorus that finds Trauley's glossy falsetto unraveling into a soulful croon, making for a gorgeous musical moment. "Dolphins" alone is far more refined than any of Oulipo's previous releases, it's a rich and encompassing track that's built upon tightly packed, yet intricately layered pieces. Trauley's vocals elicit strong emotions from both their lyrical content and their melodic tendencies. And the interplay between Trauley's vocal patterns and the entrancing, yet grooving instrumentation is mesmerizing. The chorus reaches its peak with a passionate croon, and as Trauley soulfully sings out "I wouldn't dance with another," you find yourself ripped away from the moment you're in and become focused intently on these heartfelt sentiments turned into vibrant and robust pop music. Tracks like "Dolphins" and "Shine On You Crazy Bastard" provide a brief glimpse at the brilliance we have left to see from Kisses to the Sky, but you can check out the tracklist for now and just imagine how great this release is going to be.

Kisses to the Sky Tracklist
1. Nite Legs
2. Dolphins
3. Lovers On the Moon
4. Shine On You Crazy Bastard
5. Prisoner of Love
6. Amsterdam Shag
7. Blue Flames
8. Kisses to the Sky

Monday, January 26, 2015

Artist Feature: Bo White

Photo Credit: James Willamor
When you talk to most musicians about whether or not they had a direction in mind with their musical projects, you usually are greeted with a swift "no, it just kind of came out this way." It usually serves as an amalgamation of all of their current and previous influences, effortlessly turning into a style all their own. Charlotte-based musician Bo White seems to approach things a bit differently. Since White's youth he's been meticulously crafting music of all varieties, theres the math-y yet melodic indie pop of Yardwork, the guitarless symphonic pomp of Bo White y Su Orquesta and his most recent post-punk excursion of Patois Counselors, each with their own unique, defined sound that feels unlike any other. Patois Counselors will be making their live debut this Friday at Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, N.C. alongside acts like Diarrhea Planet, Junior Astronomers and Museum Mouth, so in advance we spoke with Bo about how the hell you can consistently make such a wide array of incredible music.

"I’m genuinely interested in most genres of music at any stage," White says, "precise to free, novice to virtuoso. I pay the most attention to unique elements that separate certain genres or sounds from others." So whereas many artists may find particular elements of a certain genre and build their sound around multiple facets, White seems to become enamored by one in particular and delve deep into the genre's possibilities. "If I want to do a different genre, I start another project," White states, which explains the myriad of acts that White has been a part of. He cites his most recent solo releases as the exception to these rules though, claiming that Adornment and Millenial Tombs were "compilations of experiments," which is quite the testament considering Millenial Tombs was listed as one of our favorite North Carolina albums of 2014. "I tried to think about them as little as possible," White proclaims, "Adornment is the compilation of what I could come up with in a weekend. Millenial Tombs is a compilation of what I could come up with in a few weeks while recovering from a stint in the hospital."

When you take into account that White can put such minimal thought into a project and still have it lauded as one of the best releases of the year, it kind of leaves you a bit floored as to what this musician is truly capable of at his finest. When discussing his creative output, White states that he's running at "medium capacity" when at his most prolific, stating that he could "write and record all day, every day" but, you know there's this whole thing called society that we probably need to interact with. Regardless of whether he's working at full capacity or not, it's astonishing to see how seamlessly White can craft such intricate works throughout such a wide selection of genres.

Frankly that astonishment is something that I'm not quite sure will ever go away. It seems as if each new project broadens White's horizons in a new and invigorating way, and that's because he's got well defined ideas as to how each new project should sound. "With any project I begin by imagining the end result," White says. "Do I want to eat Sunday brunch to this music? Do I want to spark some romance? Do I want to get bled on at the Milestone? From there I’ll shape the kernels into a form that is approximately a full song, say 3 minutes or so." If I had to take any guess as to which one of these coincides with Patois Counselors, I'd wager that its the latter. To date there's only two songs available for folks to soak in from Patois Counselors, a primarily synth-driven track entitled "Clean Skits" and "Free Jazz Complaint." The music of "Clean Skits" sounds crunchy and dissonant, propelled by brisk drumbeats and nervous wails from White that dip in and out of the mix as the warm, distorted synth line encompasses the listener. "Free Jazz Complaint" feels a bit more straight forward, it sounds a bit like if Damon Albarn were to take a foray into psyched-out punk rock. White's vocals take more of a forefront on this track while frenzied guitar lines pop in and out,  soundtracking White's meta rants on free-form music.

"I wanted to blister some paint off the walls but do it in an anti-macho, smart ass way," White says of Patois Counselors. "I’ve played punk and noisier stuff before, but people forget. Even when I’m singing Sade soul through a cassette deck with clarinet samples, I feel like I’m doing it in a punk manner." White shrugs off the fact that this may be lost to some audiences, but when you go back and analyze his music through this lens it makes a bit more sense. White's got an inherently punk attitude throughout his work and Patois Counselors serves as an excellent outlet for that attitude. It's crass, but accessible, which is why it fits perfectly on the Reverb Fest bill. Joining some of the state's most revered punk-oriented acts, Patois Counselors will make their live debut this Friday evening with a fresh new band that's "that's taken [his] parts and made them more visceral," meaning you can probably expect things to get pretty wiley.

Listen to "Free Jazz Complaint" below and check out Patois Counselors at Reverb Fest in Charlotte at The Neighborhood Theatre on Jan. 30. alongside Diarrhea Planet, Junior Astronomers, Museum Mouth and Southern Femisphere.