Charlotte had a ton of great music released in 2018

 By Shirley Griffith

December 22, 2018 (Updated)

Another year gone by and Charlotte’s music scene continues to stretch across the crown of our Queen City to bring us together, one sick beat, charming lyric, or guitar noodle at a time. As our city expands and changes, it’s important to take stock of what our music and artists have to say. Here we’ve compiled a list to get you started on some gems that were released in 2018 from Charlotte musicians.

Patois Counselors – Proper Release

Post-punk aficionados Patois Counselors bounce somewhere between the iconic greatness of The Fall, the lasting impact of Pere Ubu, and the synth-driven leftfield of Devo. Patois Counselors is an endlessly fascinating band, a fact that is evident from just one listen of their first full-length album, Proper Release. The band’s juxtaposition of alternating instrumentation, the way the synth distorts and teeters on insanity without ever fully plunging in, and the steady, assured vocals of frontman and legendary musician Bo White, all work together in a startlingly genius balance.

Erick LottaryYou Can Tell

Not only did Lottary release You Can Tell in early 2018, but the genre-melding hip hop artist also gave us an EP, Look Both Ways, in November of this year. This poetic storyteller uses his pen and flow to weave deeper life into uniquely striking beats. With features from his HomeSkool cohorts Kris Kasanova, Cyanca, Harvey Cummings and Eleazar Shafter, and production by Dhurl, Ryan Scott, Ryan Alexy and Jimmy Kelso, the artist formerly known as Lotta has created a high-energy selection of absolute bangers. From the boisterously Ignatius J. Reilly brass on album kicker “Week 15” to the Cyanca-featured Frank Ocean West Coast chill of “It Was All Worth It” Lottary peels open the heavy spine of his world to the listener.

Late Bloomer – Waiting

Despite what their band name suggests, this steadfast three-piece has matured gracefully, evidenced in their third album, Waiting. Combining influences of each member, this album showcases a sincerity hinted at on their earlier albums. Whether you’re in it for the blistering riffs, the nostalgic influences cut with a modern edge, or the lyrics that ring true to anybody navigating the triumphs and pitfalls of adulthood, Waiting is a record that embodies what it means to constantly battle the monotony of maturity and why it’s a fight worth sticking out.

Hectorina – Muck

Never afraid to mix things up and get a little weird, adept trio Hectorina gave us a more experimental sound with Muck. Songs wander in and out of the room, checking in with a cunning catch of the eye before slipping away. Rhythmic chaos playfully bends the dimensions between light and shadow. Reflecting the collective emotional rollercoaster of 2018, Muck is uneasy and wild with flurried, falling guitar and bass swirls tumbling into languid, marching drums. Although tending to stay in dark, moody themes, Hectorina is able to move with agility from heavy, plunking riffs to soaring, high-energy motifs. The band is powerful on this album and maintains an attention to their craft that keeps even their most lengthy songs from becoming a bore.

Greg Cox – ETC.

After a brief affair with LA’s version of the music business, Greg Cox headed back to his roots in NC and, lucky for us all, eventually found a home in Charlotte. It’s difficult to believe that ETC.  is the music producer and multi-instrumentalist’s debut album. The extraordinary ability showcased on this R&B, gospel, and Southern-influenced album is a true breakout. ETC. channels humility and grace throughout growing pains through the use of robust, heavenly organs, buttery vocals, eclectic instrumentation and cleverly glitched production.

It Looks Sad – Sky Lake

It’s been a productive year for Jimmy Turner’s It Looks Sad, who released their debut full-length, Sky Lake. The album was produced in Memphis by Calvin Lauber who also worked on the beautiful Julien Baker 2017 album, Turn Out The Lights. The album is a watery dreamscape, with instruments flowing and evaporating into each other in harmony. Electronic textures fold warmly against drummer Alex Ruiz’s controlled crashes and guitars shimmer like sun caught sparkling on easy waters while hazy layers float suspended in a near dizzying arrangement.

Maya Beth Atkins – Whatever You Are

Also a debut full-length, Maya Beth Atkins offered up one of the most impressive singer-songwriter albums to be released, locally or otherwise. The power and comprehension of the album and Atkins’ voice is second only to her soul-stirring lyricism. Throughout the album, Atkins touches on deep emotional landscapes she’s encountered thus far in her youth-worn years all while looking cautiously ahead at what could come next. The collection of songs recalls influences of swampy blues, smoky rock’n’roll, and the realized suspension of late nights spent thinking far too much. The album is vibrant, gritty and full of clarity.

Amigo – And Friends

What’s a North Carolina music list without at least a taste of Americana? The alt-country gravel of Amigo’s 2018 release And Friends scratches just that raucous itch. The album cruises like a classic ’66 Chevy winding Fear and Loathing style down a country road– just the right amount of style and taste mixed with old fashioned American rebellion. And Friends has something for everyone, whether it’s gospel-tinged organs, hurtling Buddy Holly prowess, or even the low and slow cry of pedal steel. Vocalist Slade Baird incorporates his dexterous workingman observations into lyrics creating  stiff mixed drink of hard truths and soft sass.

The Wormholes – Cosmic Propaganda

Electro-alternative three-piece The Wormholes have crafted an intricate auditory space odyssey with their newest release, Cosmic Propaganda. The band seems to have caught some of their own cosmic energies in the tracks as songs stir up equal parts mysterious sci-fi and the beautiful abstraction of this universe’s inlaid chaos. Gravity-laden synth revs over faraway vocals with pendulating guitar strums swaying you into a deeper state of mind in Whistleblower. The album is bright, brimming with colorful pulses that bloom underneath soft vocals. With Cosmic Propaganda, The Wormholes demonstrate an excellent, experienced handle on pacing and balance, showing that they have made their record into a musical experience; a journey, rather than a one-off, that can be appreciated in any order.

Hopesfall – Arbiter

Formed in 1998, one of Charlotte’s most tenured post-hardcore groups, Hopesfall released their first album in eleven years. Originally marked as a Christian hardcore band, the members and intent around the band have jockeyed over so many years and their shining new release, Arbiter, stands as an exciting blend of their former influences and sounds from alternative to hardcore to powerful earth moving metal riffs. The Mike Watts produced album is a culmination of songs written without a real objective, just longtime friends coming together on their own accord over the years to create. Perhaps that’s why Arbiter stands strong, cohesive, and strikingly creative as opposed to any ol’ reunion album.

Simon SMTHNG – you will know fear

The break-up album has become something of a cliché in the music world. An artist goes through a difficult separation, immerses themself into their work, and comes out with some of the darkest, most honest and often most heralded music of their careers. Audiences tend to focus on the lyrical aspects of these albums, as the musician lays bare their emotional trauma and tries to find a way to the other side. And that’s what makes Simon SMTHNG’s latest album you will know fear stand out from the rest: it brings the listener through that emotional journey without the aid of lyrical content to provide any context. – Mitchell Franklin

Dollar Signs – This Will Haunt Me

On their second full-length release, Charlotte’s depression punks bring to light (they’ve never shied away) struggles with anxiety, inadequacy and the general, palpable existential dread of waking up on any given day. It may seem too intense to have lyrics that express band members’ greatest fears, but that’s exactly why this band is so important and so beloved. Dollar Signs fights back against stereotypical tough guy punk, literally listing all the places they’ve cried recently on album opener “Cry Hard” which then perfectly encapsulates the terrifying inner-monologue spiral of anxiety with “I’m sure you’ve forgot but I remember everything I’ve ever done wrong.” Not only are the lyrical components of the album clever (a quality more or less expected of vocalist Erik Button), their musical dexterity has grown exponentially with the use of eclectically non-punk instruments to add touches of weird personality into the album. After all, Dollar Signs isn’t just any punk band, they’re the “millenial-operated gig economy’s response to the forty hour work week; a hard pass to the American Dream.”

Alright – On the Outs

Releasing four-song On the Outs on December 7, Alright gives us a refreshed jolt of their fuzzy garage pop to propel into the new year. What the album lacks in length, it makes up for in emotion. From the terrible lonesomeness of feeling disconnected and therefore unworthy, to the crestfallen pains of love, each song is a heartfelt take on simply wanting to be good enough. The fuzzy distortion under the sweet duet ofFlowersmimics the back-and-forth waits-and-sees of a new relationship while the guitar shines bright like a moment of clarity. The band has refined their sound since their last release in 2015 and each track forms naturally and fearlessly, building up to memorable hooks.  

DaBaby – Blank, Blank 

DaBaby, whose debut mixtape Non Fiction was released in 2015 has enjoyed a fast-rising climb to viral success and a large following in the past year with the release of his Blank Blank mixtape and the single “21.” His latest music video for “Walker Texas Ranger” has accumulated well over 2 million views since it was released.

Check out this playlist of our favorite songs released by Charlotte musicians in recent years.

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