For four years, I've been fielding two consistent complaints about music in the Triangle. The first is that, aside from the regulars of local bars, no one cares about music in the Triangle, especially outside of the state. The second is that Triangle music—from jazz and rock to hip hop and country—suffers from a systemic lack of edge.
But things are changing: This year, national labels began to take chances on Triangle bands again. Roman Candle (finally) released its The Wee Hours Revue on V2. Raleigh's catharses-in-waiting Annuals found a home at New York indie Ace Fu, as did the dreamy Hotel Lights with New Jersey's Bar/None.
Next year, though, could alter the landscape of Triangle music: Energetic Triangle labels are creeping up, even as larger national imprints continue to mine the area. Valient Thorr has found success with Volcom for two years, and now Birds of Avalon has followed them there. David Karsten Daniels will release his Sharp Teeth on England's Fat Cat in February, and it's not unlikely to imagine his Bu Hanan collective mates like The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers making similar leaps soon. Bellafea is in talks with a number of prominent independent labels for its first full-length, and Chapel Hill's Spider Bags—something like country and barbituates—found a righteous home at Birdman. The Nein sounds better than ever as they prepare their second, and some think Little Brother—finally stepping away from the "9th Wonder's group" epithet—could finally make more than a splash with its third, Getback. "I realized at some point a long time ago that it's OK to play for your friends," Ross Grady—for all intents and purposes the dean of Triangle Rock (he runs the domain, after all)—told me in an interview earlier this year. Indeed, that's OK for us, but the world needs to know David Karsten Daniels' "Jesus and the Devil," the second-best track on Sharp Teeth and a song that I fell for some two years ago. It's time.
That enigmatic musical edge is taking shape, too. Especially in the past two years, the cinders of a scene once in waning have benefited from a slow but steadfast breath of fresh air. Nightlight is raising its stakes as a host and a facilitator, and Shannon Morrow—only recently returned from her drumming studies in Chicago—speaks of regular engagements for exploratory music in the Triangle. She created The Scene of the Crime Rovers, an evolving Durham collective of out-minded people, musicians or not, as a marching band unlike anything you could have imagined. Even with Durham venues closing by the quarter, the Rovers will make it, as will Chest Pains, three dudes with kids and jobs who carry enough sinister slant and up-front enthusiasm to leave 20-year-olds slack-jawed. Now, listen up.
Rock 'N' Roll Quarterly: Sounds Good