South Carolina map in retro vintage style - Old textured paper

I’m inspired by the outcomes of this 12 months’s Better of South Carolina Music ballot.

I’m inspired by the sheer quantity of music produced by Palmetto State artists. Free Occasions maintains a spreadsheet of all of the in-state albums we’re conscious of, serving to the employees writers, exterior journalists, music business people and varied different outstanding voices inside the South Carolina music scene whose votes decide our annual Prime 25 bear in mind what all got here out every year. By the tip of the 2019 balloting course of, that spreadsheet included 235 albums and EPs.

I’m inspired by what number of totally different albums our voters vouched for. 93 releases appeared on at the very least one poll.

I’m inspired by the various sounds that made this 12 months’s minimize. Benny Starr and Fats Rat da Czar landed a pair of sprawling, South Carolina-focused epics on this 12 months’s Prime 10, giving acceptable shine to our fertile hip-hop group. Along with Starr, this 12 months’s Prime 5 encompasses brainy folk-rock (The Restoration, SUSTO), an ascendent indie rock songstress (Cayla Fralick) and a few really genre-busting punk (Florida Man). This state’s music scene is splendidly various, and the 2019 listing — particularly the highest half — represents that in addition to Better of South Carolina Music ever has.

And I’ll proceed to be inspired once I hear your many sturdy reactions to this 12 months’s outcomes. Native music is one thing Free Occasions is keen about, and we all know lots of you’re keen about it, too. A few of you’ll quibble about albums you’re feeling are positioned too low or too excessive or had been unjustly unnoticed. However we hope, as ever, that this listing will show you how to suppose slightly extra deeply concerning the 12 months that was in South Carolina music — and that you simply uncover just a few new favorites alongside the best way. — Jordan Lawrence

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1. Benny Starr, A Water Album (self-released)

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Charleston emcee Benny Star thinks massive, and A Water Album, his 2019 opus, by no means helps you to neglect. Recorded dwell on the Charleston Music Corridor with backing band FOUR20S, Starr masterfully builds a way of place into each word and line of his songs, conjuring up the darkish, murky racial historical past of the areas he explores, and tying it sharply and spiritually to present-day political and cultural realities. That such a cerebral thoughts additionally occurs to be probably the most expert rappers within the area virtually feels too good to be true. — Kyle Petersen

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2. The Restoration, West (self-released)

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Columbia’s The Restoration got here again in 2019 after a six-year recording hiatus. It did so with West, its third novelistic effort, and, for a band that has by no means shied away from ambition, it’s telling that the report is its most adventurous but. Utilizing frontman Daniel Machado’s household historical past to chart an epic story on par with the Faulknerian impulses evident on the group’s 2010 debut Constance, the band enlists backing singers like Tim Eriksen, Kelly Morris (The Mobros) and Alexa Woodward, whereas including experimental edges and folk-prog impulses to its already dizzying mixture of roots-rock and chamber-pop extra. — Kyle Petersen

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3. Cayla Fralick, Anyway, Right here (self-released)

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The historical past of rock music is suffering from devastating breakup albums. Nevertheless it’s uncommon to search out one as intellectually curious and acute as Cayla Fralick’s Anyway, Right here. With a deft sense of pop and a sonic template that fuses singer-songwriter-style indie rock with grandly layered and shimmering manufacturing work from guitarist and Archer Avenue Studio producer Eric McCoy, Columbia’s Fralick turns in a set of ornately constructed songs that delve deep into the character of relationships and communication whereas additionally getting caught in your head for weeks. — Kyle Petersen

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4. Florida Man, Tropical Despair (Spartan)

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Florida Man’s post-hardcore melee embraces a mass of sounds — from shoegazing texture to punk urgency, from noise-rock grit to indie-rock irreverence. And on the Charleston band’s sophomore launch, it swirls into an irresistible storm that’s as unabashedly catchy as it’s loud and heavy. Like Torche, the group merges sludgy onerous rock with pop smarts, and like Scorching Snakes or Night time Birds, it matches an onslaught of riffs with sharp, zig-zagging licks that crack like lightning via the din. It’s as vibrant and compelling a report as you’re prone to discover throughout the strains of loud rock. — Bryan C. Reed

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5. SUSTO, Ever Since I Misplaced My Thoughts (Rounder)

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Although it’s the primary Rounders Data launch for Justin Osborne’s more and more profitable SUSTO challenge, there’s one thing that feels smaller about Ever Since I Misplaced My Thoughts — regardless of the fiery, grunge-indebted supply of the title observe. Whereas lacking the glow and vary of his final effort & I’m Fantastic Today, the Charleston songwriter continues to be a keenly adept songwriter, and tunes like “Climate Balloon” and “If I Was” proceed to construct the SUSTO persona into one thing music followers will lengthy need to spend time with. — Kyle Petersen


Ranky Tanky’s “Good Time” has gained the 2020 Grammy Award for Finest Regional Roots Music Album.

6. Ranky Tanky, Good Time (Resilience Music)

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Presumably probably the most Charleston Charlestonians ever, Ranky Tanky has taken a jazz plank and poured the Gullah/Geechee custom over it, Lowcountry-boil fashion. The band isn’t shy about deploying topical tunes equivalent to “Freedom,” however the Gullah roots shine via on the normal name and response of “Pay Me My Cash Down” and “Shoo Lie Bathroom.” Critical jazz gamers all, the musicianship right here nonetheless will get critically enjoyable and funky, with vocalist Quiana Parler wailing away over high of all of it. — Kevin Oliver


7. Fats Rat da Czar, Uncovered/Tribe (Czar)

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Rap albums as massive and diversified as Fats Rat da Czar’s double-length Tribe aren’t typically so purposeful and cohesive. Whereas the veteran Columbia emcee and a prolonged listing of proficient collaborators work via myriad stylistic wrinkles — from the rabble-rousing tag-team of “Carolina” to the bluesy folk-hop of “In My Head” to the twilit speak-singing of “18 Months” — it’s the album’s compassionate however clear-eyed appraisal of South Carolina hip-hop’s previous and current that unites and elevates it. That it arrived mere months after the disarmingly unguarded romantic confessions of Uncovered is much more spectacular. — Jordan Lawrence

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8. Contour, Reside on File (self-released)

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Because the manufacturing moniker of Charleston’s Khari Lucas, Contour continues to evolve in gloriously unfettered methods. Whereas the clearly-more-than-a-beatmaker would possibly proceed to do most of his greatest work behind a laptop computer, this dwell band challenge suggests natural collaboration would possibly show a vital corollary to his pursuits sooner or later. These jazz-driven soul jams really feel like one thing solely new — equal elements Thundercat funk fury and Toro y Moi indie-R&B haze — whereas defining a compositional aesthetic fashioned organically between Lucas and his bandmates. — Kyle Petersen

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9. E.Z. Shakes, Summer season Lower (Pow Pow Sound)

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It ought to say one thing of the songwriting of Columbia’s Zach Seibert that this hodgepodge EP, launched between “correct” releases, nonetheless wound up on this listing. However the informal ease that drives this gloaming glow of “TV Display screen” is as compelling because the spartan solitude of “Hey Lovely.” Reside cuts, from WXNA and Third Man Data, provide a rawer, however no much less earnest angle on the band. This form of Americana, carried out proper, all the time matches like pair of blue denims, versatile sufficient to cowl most events, however rugged and broken-in sufficient to really feel like a second pores and skin. — Bryan C. Reed

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10. The Mobros, Characters (self-released)

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Doing the two-man blues band factor since they had been youngsters, Charleston-via-Camden’s Kelly and Patrick Morris have progressed from gritty, gravel-voiced blues riffs to the form of basic pop tunes current on this EP, together with “After I Have You In My Sight,” which careens from Conflict-style crashes to a warbling, retro refrain, and the Todd Rundgren-worthy strains of “Carrie Anne.” Maturing with out stagnating or discovering themselves missing new concepts, the Morris brothers are on one other, larger airplane right here. — Kevin Oliver

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11. Mids, Wellness Examine (self-released)

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Whereas this Black Sabbath tribute act turned quasi-supergroup fashioned by members of Columbia’s Expensive Blanca and ET Anderson will seemingly stay a type of acts you “should see dwell,” it rips via this four-song set with greater than a touch of the livid tenacity and left-field aesthetics that make it so unforgettable on the stage. — Kyle Petersen

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12. Artwork Star, Akin to Sin (Rosewater)

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A potent mixture of dream-pop blurriness and angular noise-rock squall, Artwork Star’s debut EP is a startling, beguiling and unpredictable set of songs. The tempos shift with balletic precision and brutal effectivity. The guitars twist indie rock riffs into unrecognizable, funhouse doppelgängers. And thru all of it, singer Mia Mendez coos, snarls, screams and croons like she’s 5 folks directly. The Charleston quintet’s sound is so assured and so complicated that it’s troublesome to consider it’s the group’s first launch. — Vincent Harris

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13. Jordan Igoe, Sober and Sorry (self-released)

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This Charleston chanteuse relocated to Columbia in 2019 and marked the event with an EP that serves as a reintroduction, of kinds — encompassing the retro pop and regal nation leanings of Igoe’s established fashion on the title observe and leaning into confessional indie folks territory on “Strolling Contradiction.” — Kevin Oliver


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14. Cover Arms, I Can’t Preserve Doing This (self-released)

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The dream-pop on the sophomore EP from Charleston’s Cover Arms is decked out with plush synths, stimulating bass and a few critically danceable beats. Take a look at “Dextro” for severe perspective delivered with a knockout refrain: “I really feel the stimulation recently,” Thomas Hickman sings, stretching each syllable to its melodic restrict. — Ethan Fogus

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15. Tom Angst, Matthew (self-released)

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Tom Angst’s beguiling, dreamily melodic Matthew is each a starting and an finish. The four-song EP might be the final launch by the proficient four-piece, and it’s basically a calling card for singer/guitarist Danielle McConaghy’s solo profession. Regardless of the title is, the band’s knack for eerie jangle-pop continues to be intact on this last launch, and McConaghy’s voice stays a vibrant, ethereal, mysterious surprise. — Vincent Harris

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16. Coma Remedy, No Lights Right here (self-released)

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Listening to Coma Remedy’s No Lights Right here is like diving right into a musical maelstrom the place The Nationwide, early U2 and The Remedy have determined to workforce up and see what occurs. The guitars echo into the stratosphere, the vocals intone like they do on the darkest goth music, and the rhythm part is downright menacing in its machinelike thud. It’s a haunting and compelling journey into the shadows. — Vincent Harris  


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17. Cicala/Quinn Cicala, Submit Nation/Talkin to Breathe (Acrobat Unstable/Shibby)

Although recorded with totally different backers, Submit Nation and Talkin to Breathe make related arguments for the songwriting of Myrtle Seaside’s Quinn Cicala. Whether or not bounding and bursting with twang that’s Constructed to Spill, as he does along with his eponymous band, or uncovered in stark bed room intimacy, as he’s on his solo outing, Cicala catalogs relatable flaws and anxieties with anthemic conviction. — Jordan Lawrence

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18. J.S. Terry, And You Loom Over Me Like a Mountain (Pablo Era) 

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Campobello’s J.S. Terry and an in depth group of like-minded collaborators created this stunning launch, an art-folk-rock gem filled with beautiful heartbreak. The largely acoustic preparations layer strings, musical noticed, horns and a choir of backing voices right into a set of beautiful, impressionistically sorrowful songs, and the general impact is each whisper-intimate and grandiose.  — Vincent Harris


19. Motel Glory, Let ‘Em Reside (Actual South)

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Enjoying like a hybrid of The Lawrence Arms and Meat Puppets, the third album from Rock Hill’s Motel Glory fuses rabble-rousing pop-punk singalongs with rootsy twang and indie rock idiosyncrasy. Take, for example, “Fortunate,” which leads with a Memphis storage teang right into a shuffle worthy of Meat Puppets II earlier than launching right into a harmonized chorus: “Nonetheless trying to find your four-leaf clover /  Sweatin’ out your final hangover.” It virtually begs you to seize a pint and take part.  — Bryan C. Reed

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20. Slush, Parallel Basements (self-released)

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On its second EP, Columbia’s Slush explores old-school indie rock concepts with youthful ingenuity. The band affords mumbled verses and slicing crescendos, shoegaze-y heft and sparkly haze, propulsive rhythms and reflective melodies, presenting them with spectacular ability and mixing them in such a manner that they really sound contemporary. — Jordan Lawrence

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21. Keon Masters, Many Thanks (self-released)

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The erstwhile Courageous Child frontman Keon Masters brings his sly indie pop passions and wry, anxiety-laden lyricism to this solo challenge, and the Charleston musician’s strengths shine all the higher within the absence of his bandmates, even when he can’t fairly hit the identical ecstatic heights as he can along with his mates by his facet. — Kyle Petersen 

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22. Photo voltaic Punches, The Qualm Manufacturing unit (Rod Iron)

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Charleston dance-punkers Photo voltaic Punches throwback to early new wave acts like Pleasure Division with rip-roaring synthesizers and purposefully lifeless vocal supply. That’s a praise. The group’s materials is a textured collage of social commentary and reflections on consumerism paced by oscillating drum pads. And even when it feels a bit too pretentious, it can nonetheless get you up and shifting. — Ethan Fogus

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23. Harry & the Hootenannies, 

Farewelcome House (self-released)

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Hopscotching throughout tropes from ska, folks, pop, alt-rock and extra, Columbia’s Harry & the Hootenannies’ nonetheless handle to search out the hooks on the core of its songs on the rangy and Farewelcome House, utilizing candy choruses and bouncy rhythms to propel intelligent wordplay and poignant commentary with equal irreverence. — Bryan C. Reed

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24. The Excessive Divers, Experience With You (self-released)

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The most recent from Charleston’s The Excessive Divers explodes out of your audio system with all of the gnarled muscle and grit you’d anticipate from a band that’s been doing the dang factor for 5 years now. From the swaggering title observe to the searing nearer “Nonetheless Kickin’” and the salsa swing of “Our Love is A Hearth,” the EP is a promissory word of what’s to come back from an already polished rock group. — Ethan Fogus

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25. The Pretty Few, Unhappy Disco (self-released)

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Moderately than proceed to discover the space-ways as a part of its Meteor Collection, The Pretty Few turns inward with lush digital pop on the aptly named Unhappy Disco. That is sumptuously melancholy dance music that resembles what bands like New Order and Digital did of their late-‘80s, early-‘90s heyday — Vincent Harris

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