The true fun of any year in music is the unexpected—the record you didn't know was even being made becoming a favorite, a band that had disappeared re-emerging with charms, a stumbled-upon concert searing itself into memory. But looking ahead to 2013, a few stories and themes do herald future importance for area music lovers. We've gathered 10 of the biggest below.
1. RECORDED BONANZA
Not to disparage the last 12 months, which were rewarding enough as far as local releases go, but 2013 should readily dispatch with the memory of 2012. So far, we have word of new records by Mount Moriah, Schooner, Airstrip, Jason Kutchma, The Foreign Exchange, Chris Stamey (see No. 9), Bombadil, Whatever Brains, Some Army, Carlitta Durand, a new collaborative project from Small Ponds songwriter Matt Douglas ... It's going to be busy. What's more, The Love Language and Grandma Sparrow, the solo muse of Megafaun's Joe Westerlund, have been working on their own new material for some time; here's to hearing it next year.
One band merits special attention for next year's release calendar, and it's Hiss Golden Messenger, the arresting Americana project of Durham's Michael Taylor. In 2013, Taylor will not only release Haw, the proper and beautiful follow-up to 2011's Poor Moon, but he's also finished a collaboration with New York guitarist Steve Gunn. Built on equal parts pristine sonic junk and stately folk rock, it's a winning little record. You'll be surrounded by a lot of possible listens next year; make sure to seek these out. —Grayson Currin
2. DURHAM JAZZ GETS A FESTIVAL
The Art of Cool Project is the Triangle's premier jazz advocacy organization; in the last two years, co-founders Cicely Mitchell and Al Strong recognized the void that Troika Music Festival left in Durham when it ended its 10-year run in 2011. They decided to set Durham on its way toward a new marquee music festival centered on jazz. The festival won't take place until April 2014 (and Art of Cool won't make its official announcement until early 2013), but for the next 16 months, we'll witness the planning and anticipation that goes into building such an event. What's more, as the project prepares for the festival, they'll present a year of multigenre bills, jazz jam sessions, fundraisers, focus groups and anything else that will link the Triangle with that "stark blue continuum." —Eric Tullis
3. MANDOLIN ORANGE
Mandolin Orange's 2011 double LP Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger combined two good records with complementary characteristics. The quality of these discs followed an occasionally awkward 2010 debut, Quiet Little Room; the improvement revealed a band with an impressive trajectory. In 2012, they toured in rarely gigged North Carolina towns like Bryson City, Ocracoke Island and Kinston. If their upcoming 2013 record bests Haste Make as much as that one bested its predecessor, Mandolin Orange will have built the touring groundwork and recorded framework for a big year. —Corbie Hill
4. MERGE AHEAD
Seeing Merge Records as the scrappy rock label that started from DIY dreams two decades ago has been difficult lately. The outsized success of the Grammy-winning Arcade Fire and the commercial cuteness of She & Him cemented it as a home for trendy sounds, while lightweight pop and stuffy folk-rock has sometimes interfered with Merge's reliable cadre of straightforward rock and its ability to root out local gems.
But you'll remember Merge in 2013: Upcoming releases from smoldering Chapel Hill folk-rock band Mount Moriah and Reigning Sound—the Asheville rock outfit led by former Oblivian Greg Cartwright—will retrench Merge's Carolina base. The recent signing of San Francisco garage standout Mikal Cronin is a timely rock 'n' roll selection, too, while the addition of Nashville guitarist William Tyler reminds us that Merge has sometimes had an experimental edge. —Jordan Lawrence
5. CLASSICAL CHALLENGE
At points during the Triangle's modern history, you had to hoof it to New York for the most cutting-edge classical music, but area programmers and ensembles will offer constant listening pleasure next year. Carolina Performing Arts continues its ambitious Rite of Spring at 100 series into 2013 with, among visits from many performance luminaries, Vijay Iyer's appearance in late March. Joined by the International Contemporary Ensemble, Iyer premieres a commission inspired by the Holi festival—the Hindu "rite of spring." Duke Performances doesn't slouch either, parading a sterling lot of the world's best string quartets across Durham stages. Cross something off your listening bucket list as the legendary Takács Quartet plays all six of Bartók's string quartets in two nights in early April. New Music Raleigh (visiting the Hayti Heritage Center in February) and the Duke New Music Ensemble remind us that we've got A-listers at home, too. —Chris Vitiello
6. THE OTHER CITIES
Once a fortress of antiques stores, Pittsboro now supports several strong restaurants, a self-proclaimed steampunk coffee shop and a used book store. While there is already some music in the Circle City, such growth might translate to more band-friendly rooms, even if no proper venues appear. Some 20 minutes north, Saxapahaw has gone from neglected mill village to a town that boasts chic river condos and a boutique destination venue. While the Haw River Ballroom's high-profile bookings are out of most proprietors' reach, it has proven that one doesn't have to open up in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill—or even have shows every night—to run a viable venue. Keep an eye on the other cities. —Corbie Hill
7. GET OUT
We've been spoiled, haven't we? From a bigger Cradle and a better Lincoln Theatre to Durham's recent bevy of rooms and Raleigh's network of thriving clubs, area music fans have had their share of options for the last few years. To end 2012, though, two clubs closed, while a few longtime booking agents were shown the doors of venues they helped build. There are no signs that the situation has stabilized (and, to be fair, no signs it hasn't, either), but it might be best to not take your venues of choice for granted in the coming months. People don't book bands for their health, after all. —Grayson Currin
8. WHO'S GOT THE METAL?
When 2013 starts, the area's two dedicated metal clubs will be shuttered, but that doesn't mean fans of heavy music can't still find the music they love. They'll just have to check more sources for their news.
Slim's, which has booked some of the most grimly adventurous bands in the world, already has several heavy shows on its January books. Area record label and promotions company Primitive Ways is responsible for many of them. Follow them, as well as Chapel Hill's Lechuza Booking, on Facebook for a consistent line on local loudness. Punk impresario Ira Rogers, who booked all-ages hardcore/metal shows from Kings and people's basements to out-of-the-way North Raleigh sports bars in 2012, also posts gigs on his blog, vilediscourse.blogspot.com.
Lastly, there's the upcoming Bull City Metal Fest, celebrating its third year at Durham's Casbah in February. After booking agent Steve Gardner parted ways with the club, many wondered if the festival would continue. New talent buyer Elysse Thebner says that the fest is "a constant dialogue between most of the staff and friends of Casbah, many of whom are longtime lovers and players of heavy music." Horns up for its survival, OK? —Karen A. Mann
9. STAMEY STAMINA
What's next for Chris Stamey? His busy 2012 started with high-profile Big Star tribute shows at SXSW and across the pond, continued with an acclaimed dB's reunion record and wrapped up just last week with an "instant single" he recorded, produced and released in less than a week with the singing youth group The Chorus Project. Expect a similar level of activity from Stamey in 2013, with a solo album titled Lovesick Blues due on Yep Roc in February and more shows and/or recordings from his new Fellow Travelers collective, in which he's joined by a younger generation of up-and-coming Triangle singer-songwriters. —Peter Blackstock
10. GIMME THE GIG
Though Triangle venues are currently experiencing a bit of turmoil, an abundance of rooms remains where you can catch live music—for free, in many cases. Raleigh's Oak City Seven returns for a second year of programming, joining a slate of family-friendly series that includes Back Porch Music at Durham's American Tobacco Campus, Chapel Hill's Locally Grown and Saturdays in Saxapahaw.
In clubs, DIVEbar's reliable slate of free metal and hard rock shows will be sorely missed, but Tir na nOg's weekly Local Band Local Beer shows consistently bring strong bills to Raleigh on Thursdays. Carrboro's Southern Rail and Raleigh's Sadlack's Heroes score quality acts on a more irregular basis, while Chapel Hill's Local 506 has recently introduced smaller "Front Room" shows set away from the main stage area. Durham's Broad Street Café rarely charges a cover, while crosstown venue Motorco has a handful of no-cover shows each month, particularly in its garage bar. Raleigh's The Pour House also avoids covers on most Mondays. On a given night, there's typically at least one show worth your attention at full price that's being presented for free; take advantage in 2013. —Spencer Griffith