“People We Know” by Pullman Strike
Following the release of the group’s 2010 EP, Pullman Strike performed a release show for the album People We Know alongside Blossoms, Old Milwaukee and Wiggle Wagons at Tremont Music Hall.
Pullman Strike does not fill the mold of a typical country album. The six-piece alternative country group fuses indie, punk and country into something that is hard to define and harder to put into context of other musical groups.
While Pullman Strike already had a growing fan base after the 2010 EP, the band only then began to understand the difference between how people labeled Pullman Strike and what Pullman Strike really was.
“We realized we weren’t going to be anything like the country band that people were trying to pigeonhole us. ‘People We Know’ showcases some of our best stuff,” bassist and backing vocalist Joshua Robbins said.
With People We Know, Pullman Strike created an indie country album full of energy and void of country music clichés. People We Know is a must-have album for fans of Charlotte music and country music alike.
“Firewood” by The Bear Romantic
While the release of Firewood was enough to excite many Charlotte music listeners, what followed its release was what reestablished Jesse Clasen as a musical force to be reckoned with.
Though Clasen had flexed his vocals with the theatrical Charlotte-based rock group Harvard, The Bear Romantic allowed him to present the multi-instrumentalist side of the artist that had not been given the chance to shine.
“When I was writing Firewood I knew I had to keep these songs and produce them myself because I had a vision for the sound,” Clasen said.
From the haunting lyrical simplicity of “Point of View” to the clunky acoustic plucking in “Yellow,” Clasen utilizes mood-setting instruments and graceful story-telling, making “Firewood” best listened to with eyes closed.
Closely following the release of “Firewood,” Clasen began gathering musicians from different local bands, adding layers to what was then a linear acoustic album. With instrumentalists from Lucky Five, Marco Polo and Sugar Glyder, Clasen managed to layer the album with more dynamic sounds without losing the surrealism that made “Firewood” such a mesmerizing gem.
The Charlotte musician admitted that he was experiencing some spiritual problems involving insomnia and panic attacks during the creation of “Firewood.” New Bear Romantic tracks such as “Clothed and Bathed” and “It’s Always Right” seem to reflect a positive turn in direction for the young musician.
“Cold Winter” by The ThoughtCriminals
Nobody brings the party to The World Famous Milestone like The ThoughtCriminals. The five-piece group showcases a relatively new genre of hip hop- nerdcore, which features themes and references often associated with nerd culture.
“Show me an MC with lyrics devoid of pop culture reference entirely and I’ll show you an MC that fewer relate to with ease,” said Church. “I think the inherent goal of most musicians is to transport the listener to a place they’ve never been, but in order to first grab that attention, you have to begin in a place one and all can relate.”
With Cold Winter, The ThoughtCriminals does just that. Drawing inspiration from MC Frontalot, Dual Core, Mega Ran, Beefy and Illbotz, this hip hop group combine fast-paced lyrics and unique and sometimes strange sounds together onto the tracks you hear on the final product.
Songs like “Whirling Dervish” show how well The ThoughtCriminals can blend rap and blues together. With classic Nintendo sounds composing the stems and strong, fluent rhymes making up the content, “Came to Play Some Jams” is arguably the highlight of the album.
Earlier this year, The ThoughtCriminals performed at the South By Southwest Music Festival’s Nerdcore showcase alongside other nerdcore groups from around the states.
“Form & Temper” by Cement Stars
Headed by brothers Shaun and Bryan Olsen, Cement Stars formed about five years ago with the release of their debut album Geometrics. With several changes in band members and years of experimenting, the pop group finally released one of the most anticipated Charlotte albums of this year, Form & Temper.
“We used to be a more electronic-based band. But once we got the new members, it grew into that full band sound that you hear with the new songs,” Shaun said.
This sound led to the band signing on to Electric Mountain Music earlier this year. The release party for Form & Temper had Snug Harbor filled to the brim with music fans eager to see how Cement Stars had evolved since the release of Geometrics.
With each song delivering something unique to the album, choosing the highlight of the album is easier said than done. The fast-paced, rhythmic guitar pulse that cuts into the thumping bass melody of “Ivy” is a spectacle to see performed live.
And the veteran vocals of Bryan Olsen and Enid Valu makes “Fractals” a song that is sure to stay in your head long after you listen to it.
The guys and girl of Cement Stars take in inspiration from a transgenerational, multi-genre collection of music. And when you listen to Form & Temper, it shows. Fans of bands like Muse and The Killers should be able to appreciate the unique music that Cement Stars bring to Charlotte
“Brotherer” by Yardwork
Charlotte progressive rock group Yardwork released their debut album Brotherer earlier this year on Record Store Day through the Lunchbox Records label.
Composed of six musicians who cycle through different instruments and vocals, Yardwork creates clunky layers featuring multiple guitars and a few brass additions. Strangely, it works. Anyone who has seen this seemingly over-crowded group perform live knows how much energy they bring to the stage.
Because more than one vocalist typically sings every Yardwork song at a time, Brotherer makes listeners feel like they are at a live concert even listening to the song at home.
The linear motif found in Brotherer also makes Yardwork one of the least pretentious indie groups out there.
Lyrics like “you shed the light and taught me how to grow in a way I never knew/ healing can be a hard thing to explain, but I found that health in you,” from “Posi-Condor Session” displays some of these underlying themes that show up throughout the album.
The nonsensical lyrics and odd rhythms of “Son Of Pomegranate” are almost impossible to not sing and dance along to live.
Yardwork released their album at a release show alongside Mon Frere, Richard Parker and The Lesser Pauls at the World Famous Milestone. Since the debut of Brotherer, Yardwork has released a split with Andy the Doorbum under Self Aware Records.
“Lovers at Lightspeed” by Sugar Glyder
Following the release of Poor Baby Zebra, Lovers at Lightspeed is Sugar Glyder’s fourth studio album and the band’s second EP. While the band had been known for stretching albums a bit with elongated stems or instrumental transitions, the band has gone on record saying that was not the case for Lovers at Lightspeed.
“Lovers at Lightspeed features less songs,” explains bassist Emily Aoyagi about the change of pace from the band’s previous albums. “But more time focusing on all these rich layers of metaphors and stories and ideas to give the best representation of the entire piece. It all fits.”
Lovers at Lightspeed features less stripped rock guitar riffs and more heavily-distorted sounds that make the album feel more poppy than previous albums.
Songs like “Song Holiday,” “Deep Into Summer” and “One More Snow” feel more radio-ready than most songs in the band’s discography, while songs like “The Work” seem more like songs from We Cracked the Sky and Poor Baby Zebra.
Since the release of Lovers at Lightspeed, Sugar Glyder has toured across the east coast including a few stops at UNC Charlotte’s campus, released a music video for “Song Holiday” from Lovers at Lightspeed and signed on to Outerloop Management.
And the group shows no sign of slowing down. Sugar Glyder is currently returning to practicing and recording new songs for an upcoming album and the first album officially under a label.
“Rumormill” by The Catch Fire
Formed by former members of The Young Sons, The Catch Fire is a relatively new rock quartet led by vocalist Mike Mitschele and Jon Lindsay. The Catch Fire’s debut album Rumormill is set release Dec. 6th.
“I love it and am very proud of it,” Lindsay said. “It’s slick, but still rough around the edges. A great pop record. 11 tracks, tons of hooks and cool vocal stuff happening, and a lot of fresh sounds.”
“It’s just a ballsy guitar record through and through, which is fun because I don’t use guitar as much on my records as I do in The Catch Fire.”
The Catch Fire has cited bands such as Teenage Fanclub, The Pernice Brothers and The Posies as major influences. With ample force and energy from self-titled track that opens the album, these influences are sharp. “Rumormill” is also one of the better songs to hear live.
Because the two vocalists lead different songs on the record, each one adds a unique sound to the album. While the Mitschele-led track “Start This Fire” sounds like a country song, “Choking Chain” sounds much like a poppy Jon Lindsay solo song.
Released by the Chapel Hill-based No More Fake Labels, Rumormill is available now (Dec. 6th 2011) on Amazon. Stay tuned with the band by liking their Facebook page.
“EP” by Side By Side
Side By Side has had more national attention than most Charlotte-based bands. Twin brothers Joseph and Michael Pepe formed the band in early 2010. They recruited vocalist Joelle Kittrell after she auditioned for the lead vocalist spot over the phone.
Kittrell developed her sound listening to jazz and funk, as the Pepes are rooted in rock. While Kittrell admitted that she was initially unimpressed with the demos the Pepes already had recorded, the trio established a very personal bond over the following months and recorded the tracks on their debut EP, released about a full year later.
“I think that’s why it’s so fun to write together, because we all bring something different to the table. We knew Joelle was insanely creative as soon as we met her,” said Side By Side bassist and UNC Charlotte alumni Joseph Pepe.
Even after just one listen of Side By Side’s debut EP, it is clear that the jazzy trio has drawn inspiration from bands like A Fine Frenzy. While the Pepes are unquestionably talented, it is Kittrell’s soulful vocal delivery that makes Side By Side stand out.
Earlier this year, the band won Billboard Music’s award for best unsigned artist in the southeast, which afforded them the opportunity to go to Vegas to perform to thousands of people. The group’s immediate goals are to grow their fan base on a national level and to seek out label support.