Makers’ Mark: Ten Triangle Records that Turned Ten This Year | Music Feature | Indy Week

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Makers’ Mark: Ten Triangle Records that Turned Ten This Year

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According to a list compiled in the INDY—then, still the Independent Weekly—in early December 2006, local bands in the Triangle released about one hundred-fifty records into the world, give or take a few. Listening to many of them feels as much like opening a forgotten time capsule as visiting old friends. For some bands, these records were modest beginnings of mighty careers; for others, they marked the end of an era. We take a look back at what some of these records meant then, and what they still mean today.—Allison Hussey


American Aquarium

Antique Hearts // Self-Released

American Aquarium's Antique Hearts, released a year after the band formed as a crew of rowdy undergrads itching to make some noise, barely hints at the potential that's since earned the band packs of die-hard followers nationwide. In the Triangle's flagging alt-country scene, the group was often sandwiched between emo and punk bands on bills at the now-defunct Brewery, where the crunchy guitar tone that occasionally rears its head on Antique Hearts may have seemed less out of place than it does within the American Aquarium canon. On "Ain't No Use in Trying," frontman BJ Barham—the only member of American Aquarium who's still in the group—gripes that "one more person quit the band today." The group's revolving-door lineup stabilized just a couple of years later, once Barham quit school and prepared to make American Aquarium a full-time touring venture with like-minded musicians. Antique Hearts is an uneven debut, but it does reveal early glimpses at what's become a signature theme of Barham's songwriting: the rural Carolina native pining for the big city while keeping a constant eye on home. —Spencer Griffith



Be He Me // Ace Fu

As Superchunk slid into hibernation, Raleigh's young Annuals bloomed into one of the Triangle's biggest indie exports with its debut LP. Be He Me was a grandiose, imaginative effort, especially considering that all of the band's members were in their early twenties at the time of its release, and it earned the band TV slots on MTVU and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Annuals had a knack for building songs that were equally intricate and gorgeous, with elements from synths to pedal steel all getting a fair shake in the mixes. Much of Be He Me keeps a wide, loose focus, as on tracks like "Brother," "Fair," and "The Bull and the Goat," while "Carry Around," with frontman Adam Baker crowing "I've got magic everywhere I fuckin' look!" in its intro, remains a charming delight. The band's second LP, 2008's Such Fun, didn't quite capture the same attention as its predecessor, and Annuals played its farewell show in 2013. —Allison Hussey



Caltrop // Self-Released

Caltrop's self-titled debut wasn't supposed to be its first release. The then-nascent band had cut a few songs in Chicago to use as a four-track demo, but when the band mixed it back in Chapel Hill, the members liked the songs so much that they decided to self-release them as an EP. As such, Caltrop sprung into existence almost fully formed. From the outset, Caltrop excelled at taking metal and the blues to strange, intense places. Cloudy psychedelic breaks yield to blues-metal thunder near the halfway point of the Herculean "What in Life That Is Worth/What Is Cement Truck." The piercing guitar leads of Adam Nolton and Sam Taylor crack against Murat Dirlik's rumbling low end on "Exponential Invaders," and Jason Aylward's nasty snare and tom rolls guide the darting "Dr. Motherfucker." Aylward left the band after the release of Caltrop; veteran drummer John Crouch replaced him on Caltrop's two proper full-lengths, 2008's World Class and 2012's ten million years and eight minutes, which would find the quartet honing righteous, rangy metal into one of the finest heavy outputs in the South. Caltrop called it quits in February 2015, not too long after passing the decade mark itself. —Patrick Wall


Carolina Chocolate Drops

Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind // Music Maker

When the Carolina Chocolate Drops released their debut album, Dona Got a Ramblin' Mind, nobody could have expected where it would lead for the band. At the time, an all-black string band playing straight-up old-timey folk and sounding like they'd just fallen out of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music seemed like an endeavor destined strictly for the fringes. That the trio's fiddle, banjo, and harmonica licks could serve up such an intoxicatingly authentic feel only made that prospect seem more likely. Before they ever started incorporating more modern styles into their sound, it seemed implausible that they would earn a Grammy, become one of the biggest, most celebrated acoustic acts around, and give the world a celebrated new solo artist in Rhiannon Giddens. But that just goes to show you how little we really ever know at any given time. —Jim Allen


Chatham County Line

Speed of the Whippoorwill // Yep Roc

Listening to Chatham County Line's third album, Speed of the Whippoorwill, in the context of the five records they've made since—especially this year's Autumn—can retroactively redefine the band. At the time, it seemed like the Raleigh group was banking just enough eternal bluegrass verities with barnstormers like "Company Blues" as well as back-porch pickin' parties like "Lonesome in Caroline." But Chatham County Line also gamely busted out of the tradition with melodically and lyrically forward tunes like "They Were Just Children" and "All the Ladies in Town." The band has since evolved into an unplugged Americana band with bluegrass roots, making the Whippoorwill-era outfit seem like Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys in comparison. —Jim Allen


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