There is an endless amount of music that treats the South as nothing more than an opportunity for cheap connection. Mentions of Alabama pines or red clay or any other of the numerous southern symbols are nothing more than lures for whoops of recognition.
Fortunately, 2014 brought us many great records that were of the South, but not satisfied with simple nostalgia. Sturgill Simpson and Hurray for the Riff Raff turned traditional country and blues on their heads with songs about psychedelic drug experiences and the misogyny present in murder ballads.
Reigning Sound brought some soul back to rock and roll. Nathan Bowles Nansemond is so connected with the landscape it represents, it feels like it just bubbled out of the swamp.
On her latest record at The Tender Fruit, Christy Smith’s southern upbringing informs much of the record, from her word choice and phrasing to the biblical inspiration behind some songs, but it doesn’t exaggerate them. While I’m only partial southern, this year I learned to really appreciate honest art that’s informed by our surroundings without exploiting it.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that 2014 was yet another year women continue to make incredible music and put everyone not paying attention on notice. The aforementioned “The Body Electric” was searing and enlightening. No Other’s “Option C” broke through the noise and declared “that’s the last time I leave it up to a man!” Jen Wasner powered Wye Oak through criticism of their shift away from guitar and made one of their best songs with “Glory.” Ex Hex showed that having fun is excuse enough for women to rock.
Locally, See Gulls and Silent Lunch different, but thrilling approaches to break up songs. Both have gained a lot of steam this year and it’s exciting to think about where they’ll be by the end of 2015. Carrboro’s Midnight Plus One also cemented themselves as one of the best live shows in the Triangle, even in rooms with fewer than 20 people.
My one regret from the year is that I didn’t get to listen to nearly as much as I wanted to. There seemed to be more new local bands starting up this year than in any of the 5 previous years I’ve been here and I feel like I was constantly behind. Here’s to being more proactive in 2015.
1. The Darkness Comes by The Tender Fruit
2. Water Liars by Water Liars
3. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson
4. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
5. Electric Ursa by Joan Shelley
6. Small Town Heroes by Hurray For The Riff Raff
7. Frozen Letter by Spider Bags
8. Flying Fantasy by Alexander Turnquist
9. Shattered by Reigning Sound
10. Nansemond by Nathan Bowles
Honorable Mentions: The Voyager by Jenny Lewis, Native Air by Lowland Hum, I Never Learn by Lykke Li, Shriek by Wye Oak, Alex I Am Nothing by Museum Mouth; Rips by Ex Hex
1. "Option C" by No Other
2. "Don't Write Me Love Songs" by See Gulls
3. "The Body Electic" by Hurray For The Riff Raff
4. "Glory" by Wye Oak
5. "Say You Love Me" by Jessie Ware
6. "After The Storm" by Shovels and Rope
7. "Dead Meat" by Silent Lunch
8. "Bone and Marrow" by Joan Shelley
9. "Turtles All The Way Down" by Sturgill Simpson
10. "War Paint" by Water Liars
11. "Alex Impluse" by Museum Mouth
12. "Weighted Down" by The Tender Fruit
13. "Goodbyes" by Alice Gerrard
14. "Day O Day" by Hiss Golden Messenger
15. "In Fantasia" by Kishi Bashi
1. T0W3RS @ The Pour House, Hopscotch, 9/6/14
2. Songs: Molina - A Memorial Electric Co @ The Pinhook, 1/8/14
3. Sylvan Esso @ Haw River Ballroom, 10/31/14
4. Imperial Teen @ Cat’s Cradle, Merge 25, 7/25/14
5. Girls Rock NC 10 Year Anniversary @ Cat’s Cradle, 10/4/14
2015 Watch List
These bands and labels had breakout years in 2014 and I can't wait to see what they do next year
1. Potluck Foundation
2. Ghostt Bllonde
3. See Gulls
4. Silent Lunch
5. Midnight Plus One