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Our favorite Charlotte Albums/EP’s of 2019

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 By Shirley Griffith

December 23, 2019 (updated)

Another year wraps to a close and another impressive slew of local albums. Charlotte’s lively music scene seems to finally be getting nationwide attention and we’re proud of all the wonderfully talented artists that choose to cultivate their art in the city. In no particular order, we would like to share a list of some of our favorite releases to come out of Charlotte this year. 

Elevator Jay – For Y’all

What’s a Charlotte music article without mention of Elevator Jay? This year the versatile rapper gave his hometown For Y’all, a gratitude-filled fourth studio album made specifically with his fans and the Charlotte streets he grew up on in mind. The album’s production and Jay’s signature drawl are as southern-fried and irresistible as any Carolina grandma’s supper spread. Standout tracks from the entirely self-produced album are “Yeen Neva Lied,” “The Same,” “Quakin’,” and “My Chevy.” 

The Wilt – Old Fire

Local sextet The Wilt released their debut album Old Fire which certainly encapsulates purely the Americana roots expected to come out of the Carolinas. Old Fire is a sentiment to whiskey-soaked nights and heartbreak, as well as the good time memories that come out of them with warm guitars, sweetly harmonized vocals, and alt-country rocksteady charm. Standout tracks include “Can’t Feel Nothin’,” “Here You Come,” “I Can See It Now,” and “Bristol Sign.”

DaBaby – Kirk

With an onslaught of visibility this year, Charlotte’s own DaBaby skyrocketed to international fame with the release of his sophomore album Kirk, which debuted at #1 on US Billboard 200. The album begins with a sentimental ode to his late father before segueing into punch-line populated baritone quips. DaBaby’s humorous and verbose hits sit well with his slyly rude bravado and slick production. Standout tracks are “INTRO,” “BOP,” “VIBEZ,” and “GOSPEL.”

Modern Moxie – Claw Your Way Out

Indie pop/rock group Modern Moxie made quite the splash in 2019 with the release of their debut Claw Your Way Out– an empowering ode to self-resilience with a healthy dose of humor, circus tent synths, and an array of influences. Standout tracks include “Til I’m A Ghost,” “Light + Sound,” and “Flowers In Your Hair.”

Petrov – Sleep Year

Another new band to erupt in Charlotte is Petrov and, although they may be new, most of the members are now veterans of the indie rock scene. Pulling from their collective pasts and adding in vital frontwoman Mary Grace McKusick, the energetic five-piece spent a full year together crafting their debut six-track EP, Sleep Year. Their patience paid off and the band has seen momentous traction and visibility including features on WFAE. Standout tracks include “Half MT,” “Divine Wine,” and “Sleepwalking.”

Cyanca – I’m Staying Home

Charlotte’s own honey-voiced Cyanca had a banner year which included dropping her charming EP I’m Staying Home, a delightful soundtrack dedicated to staying in and cultivating your surroundings with all the luxuries of home. Cyanca’s neo-soul sound and soothing Badu-esque voice manifest cozy vibes throughout the short and sweet three-track snack.

Hungry Girl – Rip Currents

Adding a little grunge to Charlotte’s skyline is the heavy churn of Hungry Girl’s Rip Currents, a much-anticipated riff-filled album that comes after 2017’s EP Cool Shots. Featuring newcomer Jake Wade on bass, the heavy rock outfit’s collection seems ripe for live performances where melodies stream into mosh-worthy breakdowns and guitar solos fly proudly over the sludge of emotive bass. Standout tracks include “Find Myself Missing You,” “S.I.C.,” and “Say Less.”

Future Friend – Secret Handshake

Sibling duo Future Friend hit the scene with fresh electro-pop and effervescent synths on their debut offering Secret Handshake. The Minnesota transplants grew up playing bluegrass in their family band but dreamed of progressing their own modern sound that would incorporate playful synths, lighthearted vocals, and infectious guitar hooks, which is just what they’ve done with this release. 

Ancient Cities – Spirits Of Light

2019 saw this four-piece take on an edgier style, blooming their rootsy past into a vibrant swagger of rock’n’roll. The group seemed to have been particularly influenced by 2000s era sound of bands like Arctic Monkeys, bringing out swinging guitars and electronic textures to uplift gliding vocals. Standout tracks include “Heavy Sleeper,” “Staircase,” and title track “Spirits Of Light.”

Dexter Jordan – Blue

A cathartic and soulful release is exactly the way we’d describe Jordan’s debut album Blue, where he sings openly about grappling with the tragic loss of his mother, stepping into his own skin as a proud gay black man, and finding grace inside himself to accept an active role in the days laid out ahead of him. Standout tracks include “Be Cool,” “Epiphany,” and “Skyscraper (In N.Y.C.).” 

Dirty Art Club – Mystic Drive-Thru

Trippy electronic psychedelia extraordinaire Matt Cagle, the elusive and humble brains behind Dirty Art Club, treated fans to a hypnotic short and sweet EP, Mystic Drive-Thru. The project is lush and melancholic with the emotive drip of sweet synths slinking into shadowy corners, eerie and alluring. Standout tracks include “Hotel Spaghetti,” “Green Pill,” and the album’s namesake, “Mystic Drive-Thru.”

Erick Lottary – Summer On Central

Hip-hop/R&B artist Erick Lottary released his project, Summer On Central as a love letter to The Plaza and surrounding Charlotte-specific neighborhoods, especially in the summertime. With ample references to specific summertime signatures like heated flings, afrobeat pulses, and Lottary’s syrupy sweet vocals, the album is a stamped summer listen. Standout tracks include “Summer On Central,” “Drinks In The Sand,” and “WCW” (featuring Elevator Jay), 

AXNT – Double Image

Local producer AXNT (pronounced “accent”) released his follow up to 2017’s Glow Up this year with his smartly chill Double Image. The instrumental album is playfully futuristic, creating a dreamy, head-in-the-clouds atmosphere driven by the mathematically pulsing lo-fi current of stylish beats. Standout tracks include “Mind Lost,” “trendscending,” and “ProtoPattern.”

Leone – Angst

A little outside of Charlotte, Rock Hill’s Leone released his debut EP, which is full of so much groove and funk we’d be remiss to not include it. The album is smooth and melts into your psyche with just as much buttery nostalgia and retro glamour as the listener can stand. Equal parts pop and soul, Angst also has a vein of anxiety streaming throughout and adds a sense of relatable, timely despair. Stand out tracks include “Josephine”, “In Ur World”, and “Fight (2 Live Another Day)”.

Heckdang – Never Left Home

This album didn’t seem to get much attention upon its release but the emotionally charged guitars and vulnerable songwriting endeared the short EP into our hearts. The album covers gut-wrenching topics like a lost sense of self, faith, and most prominently, wrestles with vocalist Magda Criswell’s recent agonizing loss of her mother. The album courageously shows off a melancholic underbelly to the local punks’ armor.

MAVI – Let The Sun Talk

Charlotte rapper and current Howard University biology student, MAVI easily brings to mind the full-mouthed, stream of consciousness flow of contemporaries like Earl Sweatshirt. But it’s his smartly disjointed lo-fi sampling and nostalgic, brassy instrumentation on Let The Sun Talk that digs deeper into his overarching message– one of a determined unshackling. MAVI deconstructs the oppression of the day-to-day with drifting, poetic forecasts alongside passionate, urgent lyrical delivery. Standout tracks include “Daylight Savings,” Self Love,” “Guernica” and “Moonfire.” 

Simon SMTHNG – Such Is Life

Producer Simon SMTHNG released his album Such Is Life this year, completing a trilogy in tandem with the previously released Here, For Now (2017) and You Will Know Fear (2018). Simon excels at conveying emotion over his instrumental flurry of beats, vividly weaving jubilant streams of brightness that cascade elegantly into pits of deep heartbreak. Although the entire trilogy is worth a listen, Such Is Life is a remarkable stamp in SMTHNG’s discography. Standout tracks are “maim,” “missingu,” and “such is life.”

Deniro Farrar – Re-Up

The Carolina native and professed leader of cult rap has stayed relatively quiet in the last few years but recently released his newest EP, Re-Up, which shows he’s still got quite a lot to say. Fiery delivery in Farrar’s trademark deep vocals ring out over bass-driven beats, bringing up everything from the confidence of hustling to the pain over homicide rates. Standout tracks include “Break Down,” “Ran Off” and “Trap Hall Of Fame.”

Cuzco – Sketchbook 

Solidifying their lineup to include a warm saxophone, local instrumental indie math-rock band Cuzco released Sketchbook— a twinkling series of sketched out songs that construct a thoughtful comfort among ricocheting time signature changes and melodic progressions. Cuzco’s unconventional song structures make them intriguing to listen to whether live or recorded and the intentional lack of lyrics give the tracks room to billow. Stand out tracks include “New Tricks,” “Old Dog,” and “Larrie’s Sandwich.” 

Brio – *ETHERBOX.

Swirling smoky-voiced Brio released two exceptional singles, “Sterling” and “No Bad Days,” earlier in the year before quietly dropping a three-track EP *ETHERBOX. The album shows off his sophisticated lyrical prowess as Brio takes his time with his delivery over downtempo beats in sultry whispers and smooth R&B lilts. The EP is a different take than his more energetic tracks and a welcome showcasing.

Chocala – Chocala

Having performed on small local stages, at the governor’s mansion, and at the inaugural Whitewater Center’s Confluence festival, Latin fusion band Chocala finally released their debut self-titled album this year. Chocala’s music is joyous, energetic, and infectiously danceable with dynamic percussion, soaring duo-lingual vocals, and slinking saxophone. Standout tracks are “Ojos Bobolos,” “Tinieblas,” and “Reina De Mi.”

Coughing Dove – Nearly A Complete Ghost

With a voice reminiscent of Tim Buckley and equally beautiful songwriting skills, multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Holman released an artistically cohesive and stunningly composed collection of songs. The project enlisted some of Charlotte’s most adept musicians like Scott Thompson, Bo White, and Brent Bagwell, experimenting with haunting branches of their own instruments. Standout tracks are “Magnesium,” “Please Save Us,” and “Forward Like The Moonlight.”

Elonzo Wesley – Song to No One 

“Songs to No One, the latest album from Charlotte folk group Elonzo Wesley, transports the listener from the very first notes of track one, “Human Bean.” The recording is intimate and close, with every violin swell and pick of the guitar sounding like it’s in the room with you. The mellow, quiet, no-frills attitude to these tracks conjures the feeling of sitting around a porch with loved ones on a balmy Carolina evening as the sun begins to set. It is warm and comforting, like listening to some friends playing through some of their songs for the pure joy of it, blissfully unaware of the audience listening to the recordings.” – Mitchell Franklin, CLTure

Special thanks to our friends and sponsors at Costello REI for supporting Charlotte music and CLTure.org.

Listen to our Mega Charlotte Music Playlist for our favorite songs from local musicians spanning over 20 years:

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