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Take note: 10 rising Charlotte bands you should know

by Bryan Reed

Take note: 10 rising Charlotte bands you should know

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Picture by Laura Meek

February 28, 2012

Another year brings another crop of up-and-coming bands promising great things for a Charlotte music scene that is as restless as it is ambitious. From the next wave of adventurous punk bands to house-party garage rock favorites; from achingly beautiful folk-explorations to crisp, bright pop and every place between, Queen City music lovers have plenty to get excited about in 2012.

Here are 10 Charlotte-area bands worth keeping an eye on this year.



Charlotte rapper Deniro Farrar has let loose a flood of new singles over the past few months, collaborating with the likes of Little Brother’s Rapper Big Pooh and up-and-coming producer Clams Casino. It all works for Farrar who, drawling his syllables like taffy, can illustrate an everyday struggle (as he does on “NWO”) or indulge in a lyrical bacchanal (as he does on “Fuckin’ Ridiculous”) with equal finesse. As RCRDLBL’s Hillary Kaylor wrote of Farrar’s work on those songs, “Dude's got dichotomy.” Like T.I. or David Banner, Farrar’s syrupy drawl is a malleable tool well-suited for both carefree braggadocio and more thoughtful examinations.


Joint Damage’s punk rock might be anxious and jittery, but it’s also remarkably catchy. That’s hardly surprising though, given its members backgrounds. Drummer Michael Houseman plays in the engaging free-improv combo Great Architect, bassist Thomas Berkau leads the pop gang Yardwork, and singer/guitarist Nick Goode is at the front of Brain F≠’s bouncy garage-punk. This trio’s first output, 2010’s Nunca Mas cassette, was an in-the-red burst of snotty punk bliss. The band’s forthcoming LP for Sorry State Records, Strike Gently, promises more of the same, but more focused, more ambitious and more ferocious. In other words, better.



In 2010, Junior Astronomers released their second recording for free, via Bandcamp, titling it I Just Want To Make A Statement. And that’s exactly what it did. With the EP circulating the Internet and the band maintaining an ambitious touring schedule, it was clear that the quintet had every intention of bringing its wiry indie rock, informed by punk urgency and post-rock dynamics, to the masses. Favorite Gentlemen Records, the Atlanta label that had already launched the careers of Manchester Orchestra and O’Brother, took note and signed the band last year. Expect them to hit the studio in the late Spring to cut a new album, after a jaunt to the annual South by Southwest music pilgrimage in Austin, Texas.


2010’s The Storm & The Eye was a noteworthy debut for Matrimony. Most bands take years to develop a sound so carefully crafted and so professional in its presentation. There were no raw edges, no rookie mistakes. With the swooning smoothness of The Swell Season, the down-home rollick of The Avett Brothers or Mumford & Sons, and plenty of skybound pop swells, Matrimony’s music is meant for large audiences. And with their recent signing to Columbia Records and a new album expected this summer, the band built around married couple Jimmy Brown and Ashlee Hardee Brown will have the opportunity to find those large audiences.


With a murky, echo-haunted take on raw hardcore, Nö Pöwer’s 2011 demo tape was a singular entity. Spacious isn’t usually term used to describe punk songs, but the seven collected on the cassette leave dark, noisy recesses between bright blasts. Like New York noisemakers The Men, Nö Pöwer’s psychedelic dischargeis an exciting confrontation to the norm. The quartet — which comprises ex-Grids frontman Rob Davis, drummer Hunter Campbell, guitarist West Hasty, and bassist David Michaud — will release its No Axis 7-inch this Spring via Inkblot Records and Charlotte’s Self-Aware Records.


One Another made its debut in 2009, but geography prevented the trio from capitalizing on its potential. During a period in which guitarist Chris Thomas pinballed between Charlotte, New York, and Chicago, the trio gelled long enough to cut and self-release last year’s Keep Moving EP. A slab of retro-and-proud early ‘90s punk and indie touchstones, Keep Moving fits neatly into the loud-indie revival that’s propelled the reunions of bands like Dinosaur Jr and Superchunk, and the formation of ones like Yuck. And with One Another’s three members all living in the same city again, the band seems poised to make waves this year.


Paint Fumes came out of the ether to become a tentpole of the local house party circuit, and left in their wake a mess of hoots, hollers, and perfectly scuzzy garage rock. The trio’s fuzz-fueled and wild-eyed garage rock suggests genre icons like The Oblivians, while keeping pace with the frantic pop of Ty Segall and the real-gone psychedelics of Apache Dropout. And this year Paint Fumes’ intoxicating blasts will find their way to vinyl. The band plans a three-song 7-inch before unleashing their debut LP, Uck Life, via the excellent Slovenly Recordings this summer.




Last July’s Spaces single was a brief but powerful introduction to Serfs: two songs of fuzz-burned lo-fi pop with all the casual melody of Best Coast and the hazy, hooky melancholy of Crystal Stilts. Ripples of punchy pop-punk and bleary classic pop filter through Serfs’ songs like sunlight through dusty windows. In February, the quartet of singer/guitarist Phil Pucci, guitarist David Scanlon, bassist Patrick Doherty, and drummer Woody Hassell is set to record a follow-up single, Social Cycle, for a March release.


Okay, so technically, Sunshone Still is from Columbia, S.C., where bandleader Chris Smith resides. But the band’s third LP, ThewaytheworldDies, is one of the last recorded works to feature the late Charlotte musician Rodney Lanier (Sea of Cortez, Jolene) and the gorgeous accoutrement he added with guitar, accordion, and steel guitar. Lanier’s is a vital contribution to this collection of songs penned after Smith’s brother’s suicide. Touchstones like Calexico’s cinematic twang, Sparklehorse’s rich textures, Howe Gelb’s off-kilter waltzes, Sebadoh’s lo-fi grit, and Mark Kozelek’s whispery laments traipse through the album, but Smith is the master of his influences, weaving together a touching memorial.


The sparse, haunting music collected on Veda Woolf’s December EP Lonely Widow is as chilly and distant as it is thrilling. Swirling in dark shadows and open space, spidery guitar lines and breathy incantations coalesce into ghostly folk songs somewhere between the art-rock leanings of Chelsea Wolfe, Tara Jane O’Neil’s skeletal arrangements, and Kate Bush’s warped and etheral pop. Recorded by Young And In The Way guitarist Rick Contes, Lonely Widow captures a dry chill that complements YAITW’s bitter metal, but Woolf’s vocals cut through the cold, making the EP one of Charlotte’s most memorable and promising debuts in recent memory.

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