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Charlotte Music Cuts: Modern Moxie, Vess, Cheeno Ghee, Yung Citizen and heckdang

 By Shirley Griffith

June 6, 2019

The summer is upon us and this month’s music cuts is dedicated to showcasing the wavy heat rising from Charlotte’s streets. If you’re sitting out a few noteworthy Southeast festivals this year, don’t worry! The best part about Charlotte’s burgeoning music scene is that you won’t have to go far or spend hundreds on a weekend pass to catch worthwhile talent right in your own backyard.

As an extension of the Monthly Music Cuts, we’ll highlight the local artist chosen for Tip Top Daily Market’s Music Tasting. The Music Tasting is a laidback event from 7-9 p.m. on the last Friday of each month. A curated playlist, based entirely from a local album release, plays throughout the funky bottle shop/record store, mixing mainstream influences with the regional sound, a musical avenue for the Gestalt Law of Proximity. The June Music Tasting, happening on June 28, will feature a playlist based off power-pop group Modern Moxie’s debut full-length, Claw Your Way Out.

Modern Moxie

Hailing from a small South Carolina town, multi-instrumentalist Madison Lucas took up songwriting as a way to understand and communicate the awkward and unrealized anxieties that often plague creative people growing up in uninspiring environments. A move to Charlotte in 2013 introduced Lucas to accomplished bassist, Harry Kollm (Time Sawyer, Asleep in the Weeds, Jon Linker Band), whose varied veteran experience propelled Lucas to get serious about forming a full band, thus bringing Modern Moxie into existence. After marrying in 2016, Lucas and Kollm spent their first year as husband and wife recording with Columbia, SC producer, Kenny McWilliams, to create a labor of love called Claw Your Way Out. Bringing in guitarist Phil Pucci (Pullover, Serfs, Landless, Rnie) and drummer Charlie Weeks, the four-piece became a solidified line up. Both Pucci and Weeks dove headfirst into adding their distinctive textures into Modern Moxie’s still unrecorded songs and headed into Archer Avenue Studio in December 2018 to record the final five tracks for CYWO.

L to R: Madison Lucas, Harry Kollm, Phil Pucci, and Charlie Weeks

Years in the making, CYWO is a celebration record, triumphantly bursting with hilarious and moving self- reflection. Album opener “Symphony” is Lucas’ love letter to the partnership she found with Kollm, relating the magnetism the pair shares with the way music has always been tugging quietly toward her dreams. Ominous synth and staccato vocals on the title track fight against the lyrics’ empowered message of overcoming yourself, perfectly exhibiting the extremity in moods of doubting yourself artistically, a realm Lucas spent years clawing herself out of. The spiraling “Til I’m A Ghost” is sassy and scathing, grinding from wild rock’n’roll into a soft, dreamy bossa nova that leads effortlessly into “Luckily,” a charming track written years ago when Lucas found grace in herself and the path she had carved under the guidance of music. The easy breathing intro of “Flowers In Your Hair” sparkles into a bluesy spin, dizzy and drunk on its own hazy, floral aroma. The band’s collective love of The Beatles is most apparent in “Bones” where a circus-fueled “Strawberry Fields Forever” synth bounces over warm bass and military-disciplined drumming. The shimmer of “Vanilla Talks” features Pucci’s swirling chords (and backing vocals), blending the afterthoughts of a relationship gone to waste with Lucas’ smirking, victorious lyrics. The album closer, “Believers In Sound” is a dedication to music and its believers who supported Lucas when she first approached the idea of being a musician, wary but hopeful, nearly a decade ago. The track is touching and empathetic, offering closure and salutation to the hard work that has brought Modern Moxie this far. Catch Modern Moxie on Saturday, June 8 at Snug Harbor for their album release party with support from fellow local acts Faye, Sweat Transfer, Future Friend, and a special aerial performance.

Vess

Vess is the solo work of NC-native Jeremy Michael Vess, a personal outlet for the singer-songwriter to express the depths he’s traversed since he formed the project in 2007. Lyrically, Vess dives into his experiences and surfaces with messages of love, hope, and a bit of the bright side – an unquenched need in these tumultuous times. Previous works from the musician keep a lush, cinematic quality to them and never quite derail from the poignant, inspiring indie pop he’s come to embody. Vess is newly signed to Four Finger Records, a local DIY record label and spent last year in Faith, NC recording his first full-length album with producer and Flagship member Michael Finster at Snug Records. Vess is set to release the album, entitled Shadows, on June 7 . The album is a collection of songs that differ in personality but work harmoniously together to finally put out the narrative Vess has strived for. Recently, Vess released the single, “The River” and was featured on 106.5’s Underexposed with Divakar. There will be an album release party on August 16 at The Evening Muse with Solis and Mr. Harrison and The Congregation.

Cheeno Ghee

Originally from Brownsville, NY, Cheeno Ghee now makes her home in Charlotte, where the remarkable rapper released her first project, Child, in September 2018. The breathtaking seven-song project shows the young artist barreling full steam into the world. Speaking of taking breaths, once Ghee starts rapping she barely stops until each track ends, leading you along an urgent journey of her life as she tackles self-discovery. Laidback, mesmerizing beats wind underneath the assault of words, wispy like circling smoke around the artists’ heady verses. Ghee has also started up Cheestyle Fridays on her Instagram, where she rises to the challenge of creating freestyle raps each Friday in her car over the music playing on the radio. In late December, Ghee released the heavy single “God’s Song” and recently announced an upcoming album, Strength, out this month. Follow her Instagram @cheenoghee to keep tabs on a release date and upcoming shows.

Yung Citizen

Seasoned rapper/producer, Yung Citizen has spent his time using the independent platform he’s built to inspire the people around him to use creativity as a legitimate outlet for expression. As a natural doer and leader, the NC native has spent a large portion of his low-key tenure in the background, helping fellow artists with beats, production, or general direction. Citizen’s 2017 Alive Sessions, was a collaborative project that brought together a group of local producers, rappers, and singers for a six-song EP and was a reminder to the Queen City of what Citizen is capable of. Last year, Citizen performed at HBCU annual homecoming event and was featured on WFAE’s podcast, Amplifier. Citizen stays humble, and works actively to bring the community together through art and uplifting the young people around him, positioning himself as a role model to the community. Citizen has even co-founded a mentoring program called “Ready Citizens” at West Charlotte High School and has won awards for his positive engagement in the Charlotte area. Yung Citizen recently released an EP in May entitled, F.I.T., which stands for “Feel In Tune” and is meant to convey the confidence and capability that comes from believing in yourself. That clear-headed empowerment shines brightly on the EP as Citizen discusses the negative mental and social aspects of social media influence over children on the title track. 

heckdang

In late May, local sad punks heckdang released their second EP, Never Left Home via Croquet Records. The EP starts out with a sample from the sitcom, Parks & Rec, where Ben (played by Adam Scott) expresses that he isn’t depressed at all, when in fact he’s so depressed that he’s spent weeks toiling away at a laughably bad, scary even, clay figurine of himself, exclaiming, “Could a depressed person make this?!” This self-deprecating humor quickly cuts to the meat of things as the four-song EP is an open wound of dealing with heavy losses: the loss of self identity, the loss of people in our lives, the loss that comes when the realities are much more trying than you had ever expected. The album is emotional, angry, and raw. Album closer “Presbyterian” is a heart-wrenching piano and guitar punch to the gut that grapples with the devastating gravity of losing a parent, and the unfairness of being unable to find solace in religion. A muted, brilliant trumpet composes itself like the soft bouquet atop a funeral coffin. The album is truly a special collection of work by the band.

Listen to our mega Charlotte music playlist (updated weekly).

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