It’s time to kiss another year goodbye, and by City paper tradition, we asked our music writers to think about some of their favorite local music. Charleston musicians really rolled with the punches to embrace the weird but liberating dynamic of 2021, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. It’s impossible to highlight all the songs that blew us away over the past 12 months, but here are some of our favorites.
Cursed flamingo, Flamingo
EP by Doom Flamingo, Flamingo, the reverse of the 2020s Loss, is a much needed respite from another chaotic year. Continuing in the synthwave tradition of the group, Flamingo recalls the sonorous winks and patterns of the 80s that we cherish Loss, with brighter perspectives. It’s impossible to write about Doom Flamingo without acknowledging the expansive glory of singer Kanika Moore’s voice. She shines Flamingo, expressing his range and balance as his voice mixes soul pop with rhythmic and blues dynamics. In short: The album sounds like a party. But that doesn’t mean it feels level with the surface. The songs are designed to create complexity, which makes for a sophisticated yet fun listening experience. This is Doom Flamingo for you: the group that delves into the yin and yang of the musical experience, highlighting the intersection of light and dark in a dance of duality that is a pure delight to the listener. .
Easy honey, Fishing down
Easy Honey’s second album, Fishing down, is carefully composed to include roles for each instrument with compelling equality, creating a soundscape that is layered and nuanced. The group refines an amalgam of sound choices: powerful and innovative drum rhythms, guitar licks and playful solos, and voices layered in counterpoint and echoing harmonies. Which makes Fishing down so appealing is that it is reminiscent of something, but the experience can be interpreted in a myriad of ways – one listener may hear a shade of ’90s alternative rock and another may notice a nod to psychedelic 60s. It’s not pure nostalgia and it’s not literal – Fishing down is innovative. Easy Honey distorts familiar themes through its distinctive lens, resulting in rock ‘n’ roll filtered through a surfer’s reverie. The group’s experimentation with a dark, inward-looking acoustic sound is remarkable, especially on the track “Habitat”.
Whitehall, Swordfish catcher
Perhaps this stems from a general sense of unease in our present times, but there is something uniquely satisfying about the angst expressed throughout Whitehall’s second album, Swordfish catcher. It looks like a coming of age. The indie rock band is taking a shift towards a harsher sound, and while fans of the band’s debut album might complain about the missing saxophone, this album makes up for that loss tenfold. The guitar is grungy but precise, leaning just enough to feel cathartic while showing technical skills. Lead singer Paddy McKiernan’s voice is both restlessly crisp and also sweet, deploying contemplative lyrics that recognize a sense of failure and disillusion within oneself. Introspection aside, the album maintains an energetic rhythm. Swordfish catcher stars include “Tuesday”, “New Hampshire” and “Tape Deck”.
Songwriter, musician and producer Jeff Kozelski, a longtime pillar of the holy city music scene, told the City paper this Collector is quite a special album for him, and not just because it’s the first to be released under his last name. This LP represents a big step in its own artistic evolution, while still channeling a mix of early influences like Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia. The songcraft is strong, and several tracks on Collector were artfully written around strange events that Kozelski witnessed firsthand. For example, “Cold Dice” is about a homeless woman Kozelski saw all of her hair pull out while visiting the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. “The best part is that other people decide what they think all of this means. I would hate to spoil this, ”Kozelski says.
Mike Martin & The Beautiful Mess, Homepage
Charleston’s honky-tonk heroes have cooked something special with Homepage, drawing heavily on the many flavors of old-fashioned country and early rock ‘n’ roll for their latest release. Interestingly, this particular song cycle was inspired by the disturbing news that Martin’s mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. “Who am I and where did we come from, me and my parents?” Why do I even sing country music? These are the questions that suddenly became important for me to answer, ”said Martin. “You and Merle and I” is one of the beautiful ways Martin draws some conclusions about these heavy questions at hand. The entire album should be played loud and often.
Shovels & Rope, Human race
Powerful Johns Island couple Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent (aka Shovels & Rope) told the City paper that even when COVID derailed their never-ending tour, they were able to stay busy at home working on a book that went from a children’s tale to an adult graphic novel. Lucky for us, they also managed to make enough new music to fill two LPs. The first is another collection of covers from their famous Busted Jukebox series. It arrived in early 2021. As the other full album containing a new batch of original tracks won’t be released until after the New Year, Shovels & Rope decided to drop this nice little EP to hold us back. It features the thought-provoking title song as well as a radio-adapted single “Domino”.
Baby Yaga, I will ruin your life
Sometimes you just have to beware of the wind, and Baby Yaga singer Presley Randall offers space in her songwriting to do just that. What appears on his two-track EP, I will ruin your life, is a more grungy and uptempo take on her the more refined girl-rock she delivered on Baby Yaga’s 2020 EP, SHIT. “Did you say female rage?” Hold my beer, ”Randall told the City paper. Above the loud, dissonant punk melody of the first track, “Dog House,” there’s a polite tone in her voice as she sings a self-esteem-worthy reflection with the admission, “J ‘ forgot what mask to put on today. “An irreverence for normal social dynamics is cleverly turned on” Black Hole “with the phrase:” I have been a little disillusioned since I left the suburbs to settle in other suburbs “. I will ruin your life makes a rapid descent into the DIY ethic, ending in a haze of rumbling guitar returns.
Lureto, Walking Thoughts
Doom Flamingo keyboardist Ross Bogan combines contemplative instrumentals in his current side project, Lureto, with guitarist Wallace Mullinax, drummer Jonathan Peace and bassist Ben Mossman. The atmospheric interpretation of “People are Strange” by The Doors which opens Lureto’s debut EP, Walking Thoughts, leaves an imprint as the four songs unfold in a doldrums of piano-driven melodies and languid guitar rhythms. The cheerful riff of “1B” is a burst of energy before moving on to the pleasantly peaceful track, “City Parking”, which to be fair is a great song to blow up while driving. The final song, “5th”, incorporates surf rock with textured and spacious accents to even out the whole experience. By the way, Lureto’s debut single “Pew Pew” is a great introduction to the group’s mind-blowing vibe. Walking Thoughts is a meditative compilation of easy and nuanced tunes, offering excellent accompaniment for any task at hand.
Blackfox sounds, Sometimes things work out
As a new addition to the Charleston scene, Sounds of Blackfox interweaves classic indie rock with a hauntingly airy aesthetic. The group builds great apprehension throughout their first album, Sometimes things work out, distinguishing between build and fall progression with the soulful voice of frontman Tyler Thirkettle expressing sophisticated but weary storytelling filled with complex lyrics. The “BumBumBum” and “Electric Vibrations” bookends are contrasts for the LP’s soft rock setup. The sharp, punchy tension of the first track underlies its lyrical exploration of devotion and betrayal that begins with, “You say you feel so private / Do I even sound surprised?” The closing track is a funky number embroidered with jerky rhythms and vocals reminiscent of Jamiroqaui’s sour jazz brand. Sometimes things work out is both a sweet relief and an insistent experimentation.