Thursday, January 26, 2017

8 North Carolina Artists to Watch In 2017

North Carolina music fans, it's been a minute. Amidst a year and a half of busy-ness, I gotta say I've been missing the hell out of music writing. But regardless of our textual contributions (or lack thereof), the N.C. music scene continues to blossom on a daily basis in every which-way. Call it out-of-character, or call it sensationalism, but I feel it's important to give you a rundown on some of the artists that I've been digging throughout the past year in the forms of one of those fancy listicles that the chilrin's like so much. In no particular order, here's some of the top North Carolina artists I've been unable to pry myself away from since I last shared my musical musings.

1) Jooselord Magnus
Jooselord Magnus is a Durham based artist that completely floored me upon my first live experience with this spastic hip-hop act. He's got an unparalleled stage presence that brings an infectious energy to whatever venue he's performing in. His music is coarse and unfiltered, inspired heavily by acts like Danny Brown,  Death Grips and Schoolboy Q. He zigs where others zag, he takes a road less traveled and then rips up the architecture and builds his own dystopic landscapes with boundless possibilities. His debut effort, Beware of the Laugh, boasts some gritty production work from various N.C. producers along with a feature from rising N.C. act ZenSoFly. For live performances he's joined by BrassiousMonk as a DJ and frequently tosses bottles of juice into a feverous crowd, for "he who hath Joose shalt not thirst." Listen to "Pirates" from his 2016 release Beware of the Laugh below and do everything you can to check out one of his live shows:

2) Foreign Air

Foreign Air  is an act split between Charlotte and D.C., but you wouldn't be able to tell with how brilliantly cohesive their debut EP, For The Light. The duo met in Charlotte at the now defunct Tremont Music Hall as two separate touring bands and have been sharing DropBox tracks for years to build the far-reaching electro-pop of Foreign Air. They've been building quite the national acclaim as support on Phantogram's most recent tour, even earning a spot on Atlanta's Shaky Knees festival. Fans of acts like Glass Animals or Alt-J will be able to appreciate their mesmerizing blend of bedroom pop and club-ready production. Check out their most recent single "Caffeine" below:

3) Travers Brothership

Traver's Brothership is a band that struck me in a way that I'd damn near forgotten that local bands could. When I first heard the opening notes of 'Hold My Name' I was entranced, staccato guitar lines bleed into sultry horns and as Kyle Travers' raspy vocals bounce into the mix you can tell you're in for a treat. 'I am having good feelings...' he croons, and let's just say that the feeling is mutual. Travers Brothership is a refreshing take on soulful Southern rock, it's timeless and current all at once. Slide guitar, sax, trumpets and trombones are abound, but so is their deep R&B, funk and blues influences. Their songs are overflowing with infectious grooves and oozing with passion. This Asheville-based crew is one that you're going to want to keep your eyes on, as I can see them taking over the festival scene in 2017 with their bombastic blues-rock vibes. Check out their track 'Hold My Name' below:  

4) RBTS Win

The Asheville music scene can feel like a bit of an anomaly sometimes. A city filled with hand-drumming crust punks and their beat-up acoustics littering the streets, but an A.C Entertainment booked venue in Orange Peel and a slew of fantastic smaller venues to help the tightly packed local scene flourish. Although Moogfest made its move to Durham in 2016, Asheville's electronic scene still continues to blossom thanks to brilliant acts like RBTS Win. RBTS Win seamlessly blends organic instrumentation with electronic foundations, a blend between psych-pop and soul that strikes the listener both in instrumental magic and lyrical content. They've got a knack for ear-worm melodies and dynamic song structures, ensuring that the listener has something they can latch on to whether it be a fuzzy bass line, airy synth line or boozy vocal melody. RBTS Win released a fantastic EP, King Summer in 2016 and I'd expect more great things from them throughout the next 12 months, so keep your eyes out for a show nearby. Check out "Heart Eyes," the closing track from King Summer, below.

5) Lacy Jags
When it comes to the Triangle music scene, it's hard to think of a musician that's been as diverse or prolific as Patrick O'Neill. O'Neill first thrust upon the seen as a driving member of Rogue Band of Youth, the melodic folk-rock trio driven by their gorgeous harmonies and heartfelt lyricism. Since then his musical output has evolved into a psychedelic inspired take on garage rock with his work in The Wyrms and Lacy Jags. Lacy Jags debuted in 2016with a brief 5-song release Scodes on Potluck Foundation, displaying their frenetic take on garage-rock stylings that seem to drip into your earholes with a beautifully psychedelic twist. 2017 will surely be a pivotal year for this young band and I can only hope that we'll get more fantastically dynamic tracks like 'Phase Out' within the next 12 months:

6) Essex Muro
One of the joys of local music is the constant change, although it's as fantastic as it is frustrating sometimes. But every now and then you'll see a shift that gets you more excited about an artist than you could have ever imagined. Such is the case with the new output from Wool's Troy Hancock, Essex Muro. Wool was known for their slow-building and melodic take on indie rock, but Essex Muro displays high-energy, punk-rock inspired tunes that invigorate listeners through their swiftly spat vocals and ever-driving rhythms. Essex Muro slowly picked up steam throughout the year and released a set of demos in September 2016, so 2017 holds limitless promise for the group. Check out their track 'Roach Garden' below:

7) Rebekah Todd & The Odyssey

"If the door won't open with your hands, use your shoulders" sings the powerful and prideful Rebekah Todd on her first single from the forthcoming album Crooked Lines, set for release on February 17, and it's a line that couldn't be more indicative of her career so far. When I first came upon Rebekah Todd she was an acoustic act based out of Greenville, N.C. playing to coffee shops and wowing them with her jaw-dropping vocal displays. But over the year she's traversed the country and built a fantastically funky band to expand upon her already brilliant songwriting. Few artists in North Carolina can boast the presence and passion that Todd has, and she's got a main-stage slot on Floyd Fest 2017 to show for it. Her tracks are boosted by soulful rhythm sections, bombastic horns and an incomparable voice that demands your full attention, so listen up and be amazed as Rebekah Todd swiftly takes over the airwaves. Be sure to listen to "Hustle" below and check out Crooked Lines in its entirety on February 17:

8) Kate Rhudy

In 2017 it's hard for me to be compelled by someone just equipped with an acoustic guitar, it takes some great songwriting, some seriously emotive vocals and a unique style to grab my attention. Kate Rhudy brings it all in bunches, plus the young songstress is filled with limitless potential. She's on the heels of a successful Kickstarter for her debut full-length with Mandolin Orange's Andrew Marlin serving as producer, and combining her charming lyricism with Marlin's musical prowess is a combination that makes for some brilliant output. Rhudy's track 'I Don't Like You or Your Band' is a fantastic example of this, it's simultaneously quirky and ruthless, a diatribe on middle-class white boys wrapped up in their own bullshit attitude and their own bullshit music; but it's also a brilliant display of her songwriting prowess. Rhudy calls out her former lover's shortcomings over a bouncing track filled with sprawling mandolin riffs and driving honky-tonk guitar lines, making for an exciting peak into what one can only imagine will be a fantastic debut from this promising songwriter. Check out a rough mix of "I Don't Like You or Your Band" below and stay on the lookout for her debut full-length release in 2017:

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