Thursday, March 16, 2017

To Be Heard celebrates their inception with Carrboro, Raleigh launch parties

To Be Heard is a new booking agency helmed by local
musicians Justin Ellis & Mark Connor
This weekend some of the most exciting acts in the North Carolina music scene will be coming together for two stellar bills split between The Cave in Carrboro and Slims in Raleigh, all to celebrate the kick-off of the brand new, musician-run booking agency To Be Heard. To Be Heard is helmed by Mark Connor (Owner of The Cave, member of SOON AD, Grohg, The Tomahawks) and Justin Ellis (member of Happy Abandon, Clockwork Kids, The Color Exchange) and the agency provides a unique perk that many other agencies are unable to boast, the owners are actually regularly touring musicians.

Night One will take place on 3/17 at The Cave and will feature Body Games, Davidians, Al Riggs & The Big Sad, Majestic Vistas, and Ravary. Night Two will take place at Slims and will feature Naked Gods, Wild Fur, S.E. Ward, Peter Vance (of Happy Abandon) and Fluorescence. Each show is $5 in advance, $7 day of.

These two shows serve as a means of highlighting the already robust roster that To Be Heard has gathered, ranging from shoegaze to punk to electronica to folk, the agency is already representing far reaches of the North Carolina scene. "The big thing with the roster for To Be Heard is that we wanted to feature bands that we think deserve to be heard on a larger scale," Ellis states, and they've wasted no time in working to get the word out on these stellar acts. Connor and Ellis have already begun booking nationwide dates for SE Ward, Happy Abandon, Wild Fur and Naked Naps while also helping to spearhead the Fluorescence album release show in Chapel Hill on 4/14.

As touring musicians, Ellis and Connor provide a unique perspective to the ever-changing realm of booking. With Connor serving as owner of the Cave and talent buyer at Slim's and both members having amassed a vast list of contacts throughout the country, the two not only understand what shows are worth pursuing but also how to maneuver through the negotiation process that may escape many musicians that just want to focus on their craft. Taking on 18 artists that range from the internationally acclaimed The Veldt to swiftly rising local standouts like Zack Mexico, Naked Naps and Body Games, To Be Heard has set some lofty goals for themselves to manage a roster brimming with such talent. But as Ellis puts it, it's always easier to handle these things when you've got a true dedication to the craft.

"At the end of the day, Mark and I actually enjoy doing this," Ellis states. "Booking a tour is like a puzzle that takes months to complete, and you get many setbacks on occasion, but when it's all done and announced - it feels great." Be on the lookout for a string of April shows in the Triangle from local favorites Naked Gods and head over to To Be Heard's website to get a full list of their roster and upcoming shows. You can also purchase tickets to The Cave and Slims in advance below:
The Cave

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

P.A.T. Junior releases video for 'S.O.T.B'

In 2017 I'd wager to state that North Carolina's hip-hop scene is stronger than it's been in the past decade. It seems like stand-out emcees have been popping up left and right, each one inhabiting their own unique niche, putting a personalized spin on the genre. However, in recent years it's harder to find someone that's had as compelling an evolution as P.A.T. Junior. I remember years back at a beat show in Nice Price Books when Oak City Slums shouted out to P.A.T, he jumped on the mic and swiftly spat some aggressive, yet entrancing bars. Back then the emcee showed promise, but now he shows prowess, bobbing and weaving through the rhythmic swings of a beat like a boxer planning his next hook.

P.A.T's live shows are also quite the spectacle, boasting a live drummer and DJ, P.A.T's energy is infectious, it's raw and unfiltered but isn't weighed down by glitz and glamour. That's why tracks like 'S.O.T.B', P.A.T.'S latest single, work so damn well. The beat itself is simple, a choppy piano riff that's on a continuous loop and frequently chopped and screwed. Every now and then a bass line will swell, hi-hats will chirp and pitch-changed vocals will accentuate particular lines.

While the song is a few months old, an accompanying video directed by Corey Reid was recently released that helps breathe new life into the song. Throughout most of the video P.A.T is lurking in shadows, playing to the song's bleak, dark aesthetic and frankly just looking really fuckin' cool. "Strategy's important," P.A.T touts, "you gotta choose whether to Bruce Wayne or throw the mask on 'em". With the skill and determination that we've already seen from him this year it's pretty clear which option P.A.T. Junior has chosen.

You can check out the video for "S.O.T.B" below and be sure to check out P.A.T's upcoming show at The Pinhook opening for Hotline alongside the up-and-coming producer, Trandle. Purchase tickets for the event here.

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:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Happy Abandon to release debut full length on re-launched Schoolkids Records

Happy Abandon is set to release their debut full-length record
on Schoolkids Records in August 2017.
Throughout 2016, Happy Abandon proved to be one of North Carolina's most promising acts. Thanks to their powerhouse live performances and highly acclaimed EP, Heavy Lines, they received mention from outlets like Paste Magazine and swiftly became a local favorite in the often overwhelmingly crowded indie rock scene (which is quite the hard task to accomplish). However, despite all of their 2016 successes it looks like 2017 is set to be even more of a breakout year for the band. Just this morning it was announced that in August of 2017 the band will be releasing their full-length debut on the re-launched Schoolkids Records.

Schoolkids one of the South East's premier record stores and in 2008 owner Stephen Judge founded Second Motion Records. The past few years have seen some big adjustments for the ever-evolving Schoolkids entity, between a move from their iconic Hillsborough St. location, expansion into Chapel Hill and Durham, and now a re-branding of their label to the eponymous Schoolkids Records.

Happy Abandon will begin recording their forthcoming record next week with producers Jamie Candiloro (REM, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson) and Jason Merritt (Tift Merritt, Hot Hot Heat), the record will be pressed to vinyl and CD and distributed through North Carolina-based Red Eye Worldwide. To celebrate this momentous occasion, Happy Abandon will be performing at Kings Barcade in Raleigh on January 28th alongside Lacy Jags and Wailin' Storms. This eclectic bill showcases a wide array of fantastic North Carolina music, ranging from the rich, dynamic melodies of Happy Abandon to the fuzzed-out psych-rock of Lacy Jags to the dark brooding jams of Wailin Storms. Admission in advance is $10 with a $12 cover day-of. You can purchase tickets for the event here and you can check out a stripped down take on their track "Choice" from the Sofar Sounds Series below:

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.