Has it ever been so easy to tap into local music?
At present, clubs in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh book a staggering amount of music, with each city serving particular niches and needs in a way that hasn't happened in at least a decade. Local bands and labels are especially proliferate, not only playing shows but also releasing records and loading them onto websites where you can listen for free.
Even if you're strapped for cash, you can memorize every word of Jason Kutchma's excellent Pastoral or MAKE's monstrous new EP, Axis. No less than three area radio stations are now conduits dedicated to at least involving Triangle sounds, and social media provides daily micro-documentation of gigs and setlists, guest appearances and hilarious mishaps. If, in 2012, you can't find an access point into local music, you must not have looked.
Our annual Year in Music issue addresses the boon and burden of accessibility to said scene. We properly start by listening to it, offering a summary of the best 10 records of the Triangle's few hundred 2012 releases. We follow that with a list of the 32 best tracks issued in the Triangle during the last year.
We then turn our attention to the beast of Concord, The Avett Brothers. This year, the raucous roots string band offered The Carpenter, its seventh studio album but second produced by Rick Rubin and released by a major label. Though it didn't quite lead the roots revival as perhaps expected, it did quantitatively outperform everything else from a North Carolina band in 2012. So, we wonder, does the fame of The Avett Brothers overshadow the similar musical history and present of North Carolina?
Lastly, we consider the rather new glut of Triangle music venues, many of which have opened or expanded during the last two years. In the past month, though, two of them have announced upcoming closures, while The ArtsCenter recently laid off its longtime concert director. Have we, for now, reached our carrying capacity?
As strong as 2012 has been for bands in the area, I personally can't wait for the calendar to flip to 2013. There's talk of a new, Durham-based soul and jazz festival. Perennial favorites such as Mount Moriah, Hiss Golden Messenger and Schooner have already announced promising new LPs. Last Year's Men are back in the studio, while The Rosebuds' recent surge of creativity has me hoping that Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have started to push past their post-breakup era.
And after a reissue-heavy year for Merge Records, they seem to be buzzing with new activity and signings in 2013, from Nashville guitarist William Tyler to Asheville garage gurus Reigning Sound. (It appears as if Superchunk's been recording...) Though it's certainly disappointed me in recent years, the area hip-hop scene is again starting to show a pulse, pushing away some of its historical flotsam to make way for the new energy of a cadre of young emcees. There's only one way to find out, I suppose: Listen up.