By Grant Golden
November 7, 2020
It’s that time of year again when the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, giving us a perfect excuse to layer up, pop on those headphones, and immerse ourselves in the warmth of some new music. Whether you prefer dancing in the kitchen to some nu-disco grooves, staring at the ceiling with lulling folk music or somewhere in between, we’ve got a slew of fantastic local releases to fulfill all your stay-at-home needs.
In partnership with Come Hear NC, we’ve compiled a selection of some of the most outstanding releases of the past month from North Carolina acts.
It’s rare to find a band that’s truly undefinable, but Black Haus comes pretty damn close. This Greensboro quintet blends rap, funk, punk, and alt-rock for a sound that’s completely original and refreshing. Gaining national notoriety as finalists in the Afropunk’s Battle of the Bands, and recently contributing to the organization’s virtual festival, the group’s stock only continues to rise with each subsequent release.
Mss Thang is Black Haus’ latest and serves as one of the most engaging ten-minutes of music released out of North Carolina this year. Each track clocks in under three minutes, but wastes no time in establishing a defined musical world. “Removed” and “Burn It Down” are both driving indie-pop songs with radio-ready hooks and sprawling instrumentation. “So Slow” is a brooding R&B/rap-leaning track that makes use of minimalism and negative space, whereas “Rich Petty” is a neo-disco closer that leaves the listener yearning for more. Mss Thang not only displays Black Haus’ diverse soundscapes, but their infinite potential as one of the state’s youngest and most promising acts.
Cheeno Ghee bills herself as a “story-telling” rapper and this young Charlotte emcee couldn’t be penning a more compelling tale. From start to finish, the sounds of To Whomever It Concerns are that of a hungry rapper firing on all cylinders. Donning the title of Tha Godchild, Cheeno wears her faith on her sleeve, much like the rest of her personality, as she outlines her constant hustle and all the hurdles that come with the fight to be on top.
Cheeno’s flow is as smooth as the soulful beats that it rides on, but her delivery is crisp and powerful. Tracks like “You Know Damn Well,” showcase her entrancing flow and “Personal Problem” highlight her storytelling prowess, while “Saturday Mourning” (featuring Charlotte hip-hop heavyweight Deniro Farrar) combines the best of both worlds. Between the sleek production, intricate rhyme schemes, and her vivid lyrical pictures, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the sounds of To Whomever It Concerns.
Artists like Cary’s Curtis Waters are making a new way in the music industry. While 20-year-old Waters has been making music since his early teens, he hadn’t seen much success until his TikTok sensation, “Stunnin’,” a sun-soaked track blending hip-hop and pop. Like many top streaming tracks, “Stunnin” picked up steam as a viral soundbite for TikTok dances long before its release, but now, “Stunnin’” sits at nearly 142,000,000 on Spotify alone and has helped propel Waters’ to international acclaim.
But while many may be ready to dismiss Waters as a viral one-hit wonder, the work of his new album Pity Party proves that there’s much more depth and nuance to his music. Pity Party blends sonic elements of dance pop, punk, rap, and R&B to craft a pixelated image of life as a twenty-something struggling with substance abuse, self doubt, and broken hearts. Tracks like “Freckles,” “Mistakes,” and “Pity Party” help to showcase Waters’ sonic depth, proving that he is one to keep your eye on.
Since the release of her 2017 full-length Rock N’ Roll Ain’t For Me, Raleigh’s Kate Rhudy has become one of the area’s most watched new songwriters. While her musical output has slowed, tours alongside acts like Mandolin Orange and Willie Watson have helped to garner Rhudy’s plain-spoken, commanding songwriting national attention. Rhudy released her first single in several years at the end of 2019 with “Dance It Away,” and just a few weeks back shared “Snake,” the B-Side to “Dance It Away”’s 7” physical release.
But don’t let the B-Side sentiment dissuade you, “Snake” is a powerful and compelling track that stands out in her catalogue. Rhudy opens with an attention grabbing statement, turning a song about her lost cat into a heart-wrenching ode to regret and self-deprecation. She drops hard-hitting lines with a blasé delivery, settling in over airy, yet twangy guitar lines. Songs like “Snake” give a glimpse into Rhudy’s growth over the years and make the thought of new music much sweeter.
Daughter is Lydia Loveless’ first album since her 2017 move to Morrisville, NC, but a lot more than her ZIP code has changed in the past three years. After going through a divorce with one of her former band members, a cross-country move, and publicly disclosing she’d experienced sexual harassment at her old record label, Loveless has had a lot to process. Daughter feels like a record of rebirth, a proclamation of persevering and finding steady ground amid turmoil.
In a record filled with poignant lyricism, Loveless battles with anguish, self-worth and constant yearning for more as she laments “I wanna be a symphony, but I’m just a singer” on “Wringer.” There are some truly hard-hitting moments on this record that dig into the core of Loveless’ experiences as a songwriter and as a woman in a patriarchal society, especially on tracks like “Daughter.” Her work outlines the struggle for a woman to push forward with her own narrative without having to be tied to a man as their daughter, wife, or mother. Daughter is a record that explores new territories, both sonically and lyrically for Loveless.
As North Carolina makes its slow transition into the brisk, dimming days of fall, one can’t think of a song better to soak in than this droning take of “Wild Mountain Thyme.” While the song itself dates back to a late 1700s poem written by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill, North Carolina folk stalwarts Skylar Gudasz and Libby Rodenbough turn this traditional tune into something new.
Sparse, humming strings and piano add color to the mix, and Gudasz and Rodenbough’s voices brilliantly counter one another and slowly roll like a fog across a mountaintop. Their vocals twist together, each trading off for high and low pitches, lifting the listener from a bed of thick bramble and into the ether of this spacious soundscape. While the two artists may be best known for their robustly folk-rock ventures, this take on “Wild Mountain Thyme” lets their powerful voices take center stage with dazzling results.
While “Elizabeth” is only their second single in two years, the garage-pop trio Stevie has gradually become a staple to the North Carolina music scene through their captivating live performances. Stevie filters lamentations on heartbreak and growth through fuzzed-out surf pop, crafting heartfelt yet danceable anthems. Recorded at the iconic Fidelitorium Studio in Kernersville, “Elizabeth” is both sleek and coarse, a sonic parallel to the dichotomy between the song’s lyrical content and melody.
While the agony of heartbreak can be somber and self-reflective, “Elizabeth” is packaged as a bright, poppy refrain. There’s brilliant and subtle interplay between Lindsey Sprague and Chesley Kalnen’s dual guitars, with barrelling percussion from Amethyst White that makes heavy use of toms to bring depth and force to this cutting track. With another single slated for release later this fall, Stevie aims to make up for the lack of live shows with a steady flow of new music.
In a world filled with constant existential dread, we need more tracks like “Love is the Answer.” The newest single from Greensboro’s Sweet Dream, “Love is the Answer” is a jangly, blissful endeavor from multi-instrumentalist Julian Creech-Pritchett, whose lyricism is simple yet eloquent.
Alongside a cheeky video for “Love is the Answer,” we’ve seen a steady stream of new content from Sweet Dream in 2020. Back in June, they released Caricature, a frenetic yet impressive debut effort that lays the groundwork for an exciting future from the group. Each aspect of the studio recordings is composed and performed by Creech-Prichett, and filled with both promise and ambition. Tracks like “Jungle of Funk,” “Heartbreaker by Design” and “Late Night” show a clear intent of wide-ranging sonic horizons, amidst a collection of solid indie-pop tunes. While Sweet Dream is a project that’s clearly still in its infancy, Creech-Prichett is well on his way to carrying the torch for young songwriters with a DIY ambition.
Winston-Salem’s William Hinson is the archetype of a contemporary singer-songwriter. Hinson has been honing his craft and consistently releasing impressive EPs under his Elevator Music series, but hiss most recent release Everything Will Be Okay showcases a fully defined ideation of a young songwriter who’s found his voice.
Everything Will Be Okay is packed to the brim with character and tracks like “I Can’t Think For Myself” showcase this perfectly. The track echoes the production and melodic styles of old-school doo-wop hits, but the subject matter focuses on the contemporary craze of following internet trends and forming opinions from headlines and hashtags instead of actual news.
But Hinson’s at his strongest when he’s looking inward, showcasing the emotional turmoil of someone lost in the throes of love. One needn’t look further than a track like “Onetwothree,” which kicks off with a reversed guitar that bleeds into a sharp guitar line that comprises most of the song’s core instrumentation. Hinson’s vocals glide delicately atop this bouncing track as sparse percussion and subtle basslines help to fill out the mix.
Hinson’s music feels akin to a mid-career John Mayer blended with the forward-thinking pop sentiments of The 1975. With crisp production and catchy hooks, Hinson’s music fills a much needed void in the North Carolina music scene for straight forward pop music.
North Carolina hip-hop heads need no introduction to Well$, the Charlotte-based emcee who’s been making waves since his 2016 full-length The Way I’m Living Makes My Mom Nervous garnered national acclaim. His most recent collaboration with Raleigh-based rapper TommyxBoi may very well help widen that net of notoriety. On Hope You’re Somewhere Safe, Well$ and TommyxBoi trade impressive verses atop roomy trap-inspired beats by NC producers like Steezie, Tommy Coyote, and Streetiebaby.
Each track rides at a similar speed with slow riding, downtempo bass lines that mesh with blazing hi-hats and snarling snares. This low-key, yet tight production never overtakes the emphasis on Well$ and TommyxBoi’s lyrical and melodic excellence, making this record an easy one to tune in and drop out to. While most of the tracks on the EP ride along with chest-banging, party-ready boasts, subtle moments of introspection addressing addiction and death are peppered throughout.
In this article
- Black Haus
- Cheeno Ghee
- Chesley Kalnen
- come hear nc
- Curtis Waters
- deniro farrar
- Everything Will Be Okay
- Fidelitorium Studio
- hip hop
- Hope You’re Somewhere Safe
- Julian Creech-Pritchett
- Kate Rhudy
- Libby Rodenbough
- Lindsey Sprague
- Love is the Answer
- Lydia Loveless
- Mss Thang
- new releases
- north carolina
- pity party
- release radar
- Rock N’ Roll Ain’t For Me
- Skylar Gudasz
- Sweet Dream
- To Whomever It Concerns
- Tommy Coyote
- Wild Mountain Thyme
- William Hinson
- winston salem