Revue Guide: 10 Must-Own Charlotte Albums
IN OUR REVUE GUIDES, we highlight the best of Charlotte culture, and this compilation a no-brainer. What Charlotte records would you put on a must-own list? Let us know. Note: This isn’t about where the albums were recorded, as R.E.M. fans would shout “Murmur” into their computer screens (as the LP and other widely known efforts were recorded in Charlotte’s Reflection Studios.) This is about bands that were based in the Charlotte area during the recording of their respective LPs. We kick things off with an entry that’ll be obvious to many.
1. Avett Brothers – Emotionalism (2007)
Emotionalism was the last Avett Brothers full-length released under the Ramseur Records banner, garnering the attention of Rick Rubin, the producer who made the Concord boys a household name. The record’s opener, “Die Die Die,” had the polish of a band that found its voice, and it was ready to be shared with the world.
2. HRVRD – From the Bird’s Cage (2013)
This is the record where the band truly found its footing, moving from a broader post-hardcore sound to an experimental, eerie aesthetic. Led by Jesse Clasen, who has emerged as one of the most talented songwriters to call the Queen City “home,” the LP doesn’t have a skippable track.
3. Lou Ford – Sad, But Familiar (1999)
Before they were The Loudermilks, Chad and Alan Edwards wrote songs under the name Lou Ford. The former’s latest comes close, but it’s Lou Ford’s Sad, But Familiar that stands out as the pair’s best. The harmony lies more than just in the vocals; it’s that slow-burn “rural pop” sound, as touted by the band, created from gorgeous instrumentation and vintage melodies.
4. Deniro Farrar – The Patriarch II (2013)
The hype around Deniro Farrar has taken Charlotte’s reigning king of rap to stages across the country. The Patriarch II is the best showing for Farrar thus far, in terms of flow and lyricism. The album also works as a showcase for rising producers, from Charlotte’s Ryan Alexy to Australia’s KIRA.
5. Matrimony – Montibello Memories (2014)
Even in the sparse “Giant,” you find that special quality of Matrimony that makes them one of the most hyped acts from the region since a certain (other) family band. In the tune, Ashlee Hardee Brown asks, “Does it feel good to leave me behind?” As the song builds, more voices and instruments are added, but the sincerity remains.
6. Ghost Trees – The New Gravity (2014)
Jazz is a popular genre in Charlotte, with programs across the city that regularly sell out. On the progressive end is the relatively new project Ghost Trees, a duo consisting of drummer Seth Nanaa and saxophonist Brent Bagwell. It’s haunting and loose in its dynamics, hanging low before exploding into a fit of melody and cymbal crashes.
7. Junior Astronomers – Dead Nostalgia (2013)
Dead Nostalgia wasn’t the first release for the band, but it’s the only one to really capture the kinetic energy of this indie rock outfit. On the stand-out “Touching War,” the band’s knack for dynamics is on full display. As the snare builds into the first verse, you only get an inkling of what follows: giant hooks and desperate vocal stylings.
8. Joceyln Ellis – Life of a Hologram (2013)
There’s really no one else in Charlotte that sounds like Ellis. Her neon-pop evolved over the past decade, a crescendo that results in 2013’s Life of a Hologram. The futuristic instrumentation is a highlight of the record, but it’s her songwriting that’s truly progressive. Take “Dharma,” a sparse ballad that transforms into a pulsing, multi-layered, club-ready track.
9. Benji Hughes – A Love Extreme (2008)
Hughes is one of those Charlotte institutions, his solo career emerging after the demise of the Sire Records act Muscadine. This double-disc LP displays the numerous shades of Hughes, switching between rockier stylings and acoustic numbers. Tracks like “So Well” are testaments to his ability to pair vulnerable lyrics with slick melodies.
10. Hopesfall – The Satellite Years (2002)
Hopesfall was born out of late-’90s angst, a Christian hardcore band that sharpened its edges upon a Trustkill Records singing. The Satellite Years was the peak for the act, opening with the percussion-heavy, instrumental “Andromeda.” Hopesfall wanted it both ways, melodic and furious, and in this effort, it succeeded.