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NC Release Radar: Our New Favorite Music Releases in North Carolina


By Gold award

August 5, 2021

The summer has been tumultuous to say the least – we have seen the country begin to reopen and, thereafter, concerts and festivals bringing artists back to our beloved stages. But it looks like the heatwave days are not yet behind us, as fears of another lockdown begin to bubble at the top of our national conversation. While many are still sipping their drinks by the pool, others are slowly preparing for a much calmer fall. It’s times like these where music can help shape our emotional states, and whether it’s contemplative folk-rock, foggy techno bangers, or exhilarating and triumphant hip-hop, our favorite artists. from North Carolina continue to help us through the good times and the bad.

Golden Whistle Messenger – Blow it gently

The music of Durham’s Hiss Golden Messenger is like a long, heartfelt conversation with a wise old friend. Both uplifting and insightful, songwriter MC Taylor has a way to capture a wide-open narrative in minutes. Blow it gently continues the group’s tradition of rhythmic, pastoral vibe songs, creating a unique brand of funky alternative country that people of all ages can enjoy. With topics ranging from the woes of capitalism and the hunt for the almighty dollar, to spiritual struggles and mighty perseverance, Hiss Golden Messenger has once again taken him out of the park.

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Joe Troop – “Love Along the Way”

Winston Salem’s Joe Troop made waves on the roots scene as the founder of Grammy-nominated string group Che Apalache, mixing the foundations of bluegrass with Argentinian influences and socially conscious lyrics. Troop’s first solo record, Borrowed time is scheduled for August 20 and if the debut single “Love Along The Way” is any indication, it will be another fantastic album from the banjoist pioneer. With a steady beat and a unifying message, “Love Along The Way” seeks to bridge the gap between our cultural divisions by coming together and spreading love despite a “damn system that doesn’t care.” Troop’s message helps make that bluegrass tune even more dazzling, creating anticipation for what is sure to be a stellar debut album.

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Pat Junior – Golden Crocs on Sunday

Pat Junior of Raleigh has grown into one of North Carolina’s most beloved hip-hop groups, and comes out as Golden Crocs on Sunday prove why. GFOS is a showcase of Pat’s exceptional production skills alongside his creative partner J. Pelham, but it also flexes his continued lyrical growth. With densely packed internal rhymes that are teeming with positivity and flow with passion, GFOS is both easy listening and uplifting. “Black Beamin ‘” celebrates black excellence, “Feels Like” bounces with a pulsating beat and swaying horns and “This Fire” highlights a darker film production – it’s a triumphant outpouring of sincerity in the form of top-notch hip-hop music.

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Treee City – The path

Treee City of Durham is a prolific electronic music producer on the Triangle stage whose music has continued to evolve to incorporate various genres. With elements of dynamic pop and hip-hop structures that transform into heavy techno and house, The path is the culmination of its years of production. The remarkable track and opening, “Ancient Grains,” patiently unwinds from a single, expansive synth line to a club-ready mix of low-end percussion, percussion, and rhythmic vocal samples. The rest of the four-track EP follows a similar cadence, bringing an immense display of drive and restraint to make it an intoxicating affair.

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Ghost Friends – “Catch the Feeling”

The Phantom Friends are a high-energy, indie rock band based in Charlotte that brings heavy hooks and lively beats to the fore. The Phantom Friends mix synthesizers and guitars as premier instruments with a dizzying rhythm section that propels their tracks forward. Their latest effort, “Catch The Feeling”, is a catchy pop track that gradually turns into confined chaos – with surly guitar, arpeggiated synths and booming drum breaks. Songs like “Catch The Feeling” help encapsulate the contagious live energy of The Phantom Friend, something which is difficult for many musicians to accomplish but seems effortless to those Charlotte rockers.

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Cuzo key – Nionek 3

In recent years, Charlotte’s Cuzo Key has steadily established itself as one of the best rappers in the region. Cuzo takes the intoxicating, downtempo rhythms of a large number of local producers and imbues them with bursts of lively rhyme to add complexity to these already dense soundscapes. Songs like “Norf Charlotte Wings” are a superb demonstration of this, with a slow-burning saxophone sample and whistling vinyl crack, Cuzo skates through the lush production with tight rhymes. “Bitch I’m so cool / Old school like soul food” Cuzo spits on the hook, a simple but catchy line that lingers in your head thanks to its impressive melodic interplay.

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MoonLander – “Brightside”

What is now a common tale for countless artists, 2020 was set to be a landmark year for Concord’s MoonLander. After signing a management agreement with the same company behind the multi-city Breakaway Music Festival, MoonLander’s momentum was halted by the lockdown. But the young hip-hop group with a pop trend proved its determination by releasing. Houston 97 in November and most recently the single “Brightside”. The track shows both the integrity and the perseverance of MoonLander. “They said to be better, I’m on it,” he rapped on the track which highlights both the difficulties of being an artist and the need for social interactions during the pandemic. “Brightside” is an uplifting hopeful record that positions MoonLander as an act on the verge of success, and with an opening slot for The Chainsmokers in October in Charlotte, it feels like his “giant leap” isn’t is not too far.

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Clint Roberts – Songs of roses

Clint Roberts of Asheville is an artist whose work is enriched by his carefully crafted storytelling. Having cut his teeth in the West North Carolina scene, Roberts’ debut album Songs of roses is a powerful country release that is both elegant and gritty. Produced by Grammy Award-winning Ben Fowler (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brooks & Dunn), Songs of roses balances Fowler’s polished Nashville twang with Roberts’ evocative lyricism to make this a standout debut. Songs like “Nero’s Waltz”, “Amarillo” and “Annabelle” highlight the most beautiful parts of Roberts’ early days, with vividly painted images portrayed atop lavish soundscapes. Add in a fantastic country version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and you’ve got one hell of a first album.

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Alexa Rose – “Human”

Alexa Rose d’Asheville is an artist whose music seems to transcend time. While Rose’s songs and lyrics are fresh and inventive, they are aural reminiscent of traditional folk sounds that feel part of the world around us. His 2019 album Medicine for living has attracted attention on the regional scene, but if “Human” is any indication, then its upcoming release Upstream has the potential to give way to national recognition. “Human”, quite surprising, is a track that crosses the nuances of humanity and our desire for both fluidity and rigidity. Beginning with a sparse arrangement of acoustics and vocals, “Human” gradually unfolds into a haunting mix of instrumentation that dramatically rises and falls. Rose’s full-bodied voice guides listeners on an emotional journey that makes you want more.

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Antion scales – Ya thought

There are some things you just can’t teach, and hunger is one of them. When desire, passion and talent come together, there is an inevitable magic that happens – this magical intersection is where the Antion scales of Greensboro Ya thought land. Scales’s nine-song EP is bursting with energy and fun, its flow is both nonchalant and stretched while maintaining a methodical cadence that incorporates as much content as possible into these spacious beats. He “did it typed like morse code” as he puts it on “Won’t War”, and while Ya thought only lasts about 20 minutes, it will keep you coming back again and again. Songs like “1:42 am”, “Judo Chop” and “Moody” (all with visual accompaniments) prove that Antion Scales is an act you are going to want to keep an eye on.

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