Here are my ten favorite local releases of the year.
Justin Robinson & the Mary Annettes “Bones for Tinder” - If the former Carolina Chocolate Drop wasn’t from Gastonia he would’ve likely made the best overall release list for his strange combo of Prince-like funk and acoustic music. His “Bright Diamonds,” for instance, is like cello rock trio Rasputina collaborating with the purple one himself.
Mr. Invisible “It’s On Us” - The Mount Holly hip-hop duo seems to be leading the charge for underground hip-hop locally, but it also has the musical skills to back up the buzz. I’m told this EP is just the start of where Justin Aswell and Blake Matthews are headed.
Mark Crozer & the Rels “Mark Crozer & the Rels” - The former Jesus & Mary Chain guitarist made Charlotte his home (thanks to his wife and child) and recruited locals for his live band. On record he combines elements of the JAMC with earlier, less distortion-heavy fellow Brits like the Beatles with pop songs like “Killed by Karma,” “Put Those `80s Records On,” “War Drum” and “I Need a Vaccination.” He gets bonus points for the “Doctor Who” reference.
My Captain “EP”- From the ashes of my favorite Charlotte band the Lights, Fluorescent came this fitting follow-up, which featured bassist/singer Robby Hartis and guitarist Andre Francois (and for a time guitarist Craig Friday) at its core. Hartis is now with Sugar Glyder, but as with the Lights I feel fortunate that they found the time to record so we’ll have something to remember them by if they don’t regroup.
Jon Lindsay “Summer Wilderness Program” - This Charlotte songwriter, who is moving to Nashville, grows on me a little more with every release. He has a knack for pop songwriting, a voice that’s nothing short of pretty, and an overall feel that seems to have a direct link to `70s AM pop and songwriters like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, and his beloved Big Star.
Temperance League “LP” - The all-star garage rock quintet reached farther back in its pool of influences on recent EPs and this debut full-length (released exclusively on vinyl). But the girl group-meets-British invasion-meets-old school soul feel of songs like “But I Have To” works for them.
Grown Up Avenger Stuff “Alive” - This female fronted rock quartet rests somewhere between art rock and more accessible alternative, but with the assistance of producer Bruce Irvine (Anthony Hamilton) their chops and complex arrangements are more fully realized.
Sinners and Saints “Stupid Little Songs” - Perry Fowler’s songs aren’t so stupid, actually. These rootsy acoustic tracks are heartfelt, no frills, and (sometimes) boot stomping in a way that reminds me of early Avett Brothers.
Lindsey Ryan “The Divers” - Formerly known as Lindsey Horne, this Charlotte singer-songwriter returned to the local music scene as a solo artist after years spent studying poetry and working as a music teacher backed by a group of local all-star musicians. The time was well spent.
Groove 8 “Curious Poses” - The long running Charlotte octet went through some lineup changes, but it returned with an album that pushed the band forward by introducing vocals while still maintaining its anchor in cinematic, old school funk and jazz.