NC Release Radar: Our favorite new music releases by North Carolina artists

By Grant Golden

September 27, 2021

While the weather’s finally cooling down, the Carolina music scene is still a’blazing. Whether you’re looking to kick back and tune out to heady explorative psych tunes, vibe with dance-ready pop jaunts or get invigorated with empowering punk-rock, we’ve got a collection of jams from North Carolina’s finest acts that’ll suit all your soundtrack needs.

Cyanca – Fast Times

One of Charlotte’s most beloved rising stars, the music of Cyanca is an amorphous combination of all things soulful. With elements of hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, funk and gospel, Cyanca’s output is something authentic and energizing.

Each track on the five-song EP, Fast Times, feels like its own musical expression while maintaining the overall aesthetic of Cyanca’s forward-thinking soulful output. While “Charger” is a breezy, melodic pop track, “PB&J” shows restraint as Cyanca exudes slow-jams vibes over a horn-heavy hook. As the EP comes to a close with the innately groovy, “Dancing Dirty,” you’d be hard pressed to not just start that EP right back over for another listen.

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Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take

It’s hard to think of a local act who’s rising faster than Asheville’s Indigo De Souza. In the past several years she released her debut album I Love My Mom, saw it re-released on Saddle Creek Records, then burst into the national scene with her Saddle Creek debut, Any Shape You Take. It was only a matter of time before Indigo garnered national attention, as her raw and vulnerable songwriting is delivered as a ticking time bomb – delicate, quaint and folky at one moment but liable to erupt into emotive shouts and fuzzed-out bliss.

Any Shape You Take finds Indigo digging her heels deeper into her twee-punk territory while expanding her palate into danceable bops like “Hold U.” Any Shape… is a record that tackles depression, the slow demise of relationships, insatiable desires and so much more. While the topics are heavy, the music comes easy, welcoming the listener into Indigo’s world. And once you dig in, you’re gonna want to stay a while.

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Tré Ahmad – The Bedroom Popstar

The most memorable music tends to be from artists that have blazed their own path with unabashed honesty, and Charlotte’s Tré Ahmad is doing just that. With The Bedroom Popstar, Ahmad has crafted a release that’s packed with full-bodied production, memorable melodies, and brimming with complexities.

Landing somewhere between hip-hop, R&B and pop, The Bedroom Popstar balances braggadocious confidence with uncompromising vulnerability. With topics ranging from sexuality to mental health, Ahmad packs a powerful punch in tracks like “Davis Regional” and “Therapy,” while also giving way to more subtle vibe-ready tracks like “Pressure” and “Maria.” Not only is the album a brilliant and nuanced debut record, but it’s one that highlights Tré Ahmad as one of the state’s most promising and inspiring young acts.

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Spirit System – Whatevermind

It’s easy to get lost in the prismatic sounds of Winston Salem’s Spirit System. Coming together with elements of shoegaze, dream-pop and goth rock, Whatevermind is a collection of densely packed tracks that serve as an excellent form of escapism for anyone looking to tune out from their daily distractions.

Boasting enveloping instrumentation, Whatevermind is a slow-burning record that rewards patience with high-intensity moments. Reverb-soaked vocals are submerged beneath a wall of sound, rising through the mix for particularly dramatic crescendos. Midtempo tracks like “Deployer” boast energetic, angular guitar lines driven by bass-forward grooves that give way to dreamy melodies and distorted jams. Songs like “Nebula” features a slow build of dynamic push and pulls until it slowly unravels, teetering on the edge of pandemonium as the six-minute track comes to a close. Whatevermind is an invigorating album that beckons many repeat listens.

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RBTS WIN – “Some Daze”

The music of Asheville’s electro-psych duo RBTS WIN has an intoxicating air. Since their 2014 debut, the group has been producing infectious musical gems that combine pop, psychedelia, soul and hip-hop elements under an electronic umbrella. 

Their most recent single, “Some Daze,” is a short but invigorating swirl of sounds that lingers in your head for days to come. Driven by a drunk drum beat and whirring synthesizers, vocalist Cliff B. Worsham’s fuzzy vocals give way to a hazy lyrical daydream. The carefree track paves the way for an upcoming full length happy_sad.jpg in the near future.

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Bangzz – You Took My Body Long Ago and Now I am Taking it Back

Durham’s Bangzz does a lot with a little. This two-piece punk outfit takes a bare-boned musical approach as a platform for hard-hitting lyrical content. Vocalist Erika Libero’s performances feel reminiscent of the soaring vocal range of heavy metal acts but filtered through the raw brashness of a gritty punk duo. Just this past week the group got a co-sign from legendary punk vocalist Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill for their video of “Hell is Other People.”

On You Took My Body…, Bangzz produces liberating music tackling societal topics like racism, sexism, unhealthy relationships, and the patriarchal stranglehold on society. Whether Libero’s musing on insecure boyfriends, racist fetishes, or unnecessary bodily contact, the takes are bound to be both sharp and witty. Libero’s fiery vocals and Jess Caesar’s blistering drumbeats makes Bangzz a powerhouse duo to keep on your radar.

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Solemn Brigham – “Dirty Whip”  

Artists like Wilmington’s Solemn Brigham have a knack for standing out. With the NC hip-hop scene getting crowded with each passing day, it takes a lot more than skill to get noticed. Conversation around Brigham started with his heavily acclaimed hip-hop duo Marlowe, but this month marks the release of his solo record South Sinner Street. The album highlights Brigham’s undeniably sharp sense of delivery, melody and charisma.

“Dirty Whip” is an attention-grabbing lead-in single to the record, opening with a flittering keys line that Brigham navigates with ease. There’s an equal focus on both cadence and melody as Brigham’s voice weaves into the pockets of this swinging beat– somehow making a track that’s as attention grabbing as it is laid back. Brigham’s flow is animated but it doesn’t take away from the content of his delivery, a feat that not all rappers can accomplish. His work is compelling not only because of what he’s saying, but how he’s saying it, and we’re all ears for what’s to come.

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Lilac Shadows – The Other Side of Night

It’s been six years since Greensboro’s Lilac Shadows released a full-length record, and The Other Side of Night serves as front man Sam Logan’s swansong to this long-running psych-rock outfit. Logan and the rest of Lilac Shadows’ strongest asset has been a delicate balance between darkness and light, and the album showcases the group’s darkest desolation and brightest moments of buoyancy.

Tracks like “Novacaition,” “Silent Melodies,” and “What Comes Next (ft. Teevee Nicks)” brilliantly encapsulate the tonal complexities of this record. Synth runs glide atop grounded bass-lines and crisp drum beats as Logan’s vocals linger in the mix, bubbling through a psychedelic swirl of sounds. The Other Side of Night is full of both paranoia and positivity, a bleak yet hopeful outlook on the shape of things to come. While Logan closes the chapter on one of the region’s most enjoyable psych-rock outfits of the past decade, it leaves fans with an excitement of where he goes from here.

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Pinky Verde – “Velour”

The sounds of multi-instrumentalist Heather Jensen, better known as Pinky Verde, are transfixing to say the least. This Durham bedroom pop project has been building steam for years, starting out of Wilmington and blossoming into one of the more promising young acts in the area’s pseudo-slack rock scene. Jensen’s most recent track “Velour” is one of her more polished efforts to date and highlights rich production while maintaining a lo-fi aesthetic.

“Velour” features a blend of acoustic strums and plucks, airy synth runs and a slow trotting bass line, all coalescing with Jensen’s delicate vocals. Lyrically focusing on the rapturous fixation of physical attraction, her verses are dedicated to the nuance of how one’s ear may poke out of their hair, or “how their teeth sits on their lips.” Aptly titled, “Velour” is a smooth track that drifts along like a boat over still waters, a calm ride ending peacefully and, frankly, long before any of us may like.

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