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20 Best Albums of 2018: South Carolina Edition

Last year we hopped on board the year-end list bandwagon for the first time with our take on the top 25 albums to come out of Charleston in 2017. Another year has passed now, and in that time both this blog and the South Carolina music scene have grown quite a bit. There was a ton of great music released in SC this year, and we’re happy to play a role in helping people find out about it.

After much careful consideration, we are pleased to present the Extra Chill picks for the top 20 South Carolina albums of 2018. Thank you for all your support through another great year!

20. Flower Shopping – Flower Shopping

At the time of the Flower Shopping EP release, the band was a solo recording project spearheaded by Ross Swinson (Barnwell, Release The Dog). The first single, “Waste”, made its debut on the 2018 Scene SC sampler, and then the full EP was released in June. When we first spoke with Ross and reviewed the EP, he didn’t have any plans to perform the songs in a live setting. That has since changed, because Flower Shopping has been popping up on gig posters around SC for several months now. There must have been some other people who liked that EP as much as we did.

Favorite song: “Good Reason”

19. Vanity Plates – Cerebral Winter Comedies

Vanity Plates is one of the most under-the-radar bands in the Charleston music scene. This is partially due to the fact that they make psychedelic punk rock, which is an under-the-radar genre, but it’s also because they rarely play shows (though they did play Hopscotch this year). That hasn’t stopped us from catching the four-track Cerebral Winter Comedies in our “good local music” net. Every now and then something different pops up in South Carolina, and when it does it usually involves Brett Nash (formerly/currently of Secret Guest). “INTRO” is the last song on this EP. That should tell you all you need to know.

Favorite song: “GLOIN222”

18. Fiasco – Example of Wit

Back in May, Charleston-based post hardcore band Fiasco returned from a four-year hiatus and dropped Example of Wit seemingly out of nowhere. The album hits hard, and was the perfect kind of thing to come out of left field in this scene. There’s something to be said about being different, and especially if you’re loud about it. Fiasco is exactly that, and here at Extra Chill we encourage our readers to get out there and be loud about it right along with them.

Favorite song: “Hey! You Look Good.”

17. Tourneforte – Staring at the Sun

When Tourneforte first popped onto the Extra Chill radar, it was August 2018 and they had just released their debut EP, Staring at the Sun. We were excited to find that there were some kids making pop-punk music in Myrtle Beach, and we were even more excited to find that it was actually good. Good pop-punk isn’t something you’d expect to find in South Carolina, yet along came Tourneforte to make our dreams come true with Staring at the Sun.

Favorite song: “Past Tense”

16. Easy Honey – Easy Honey

Easy Honey were a new band on the Charleston scene in 2018, having moved to town after wrapping up college at Sewanee in the Spring of 2017. Their self-titled Easy Honey was released in June, and has helped them gain a fast local following. The album is lighthearted garage rock, complete with dance-ready riffs and just enough angst to make itself known, without coming on too strong. It’s a solid album from one of the most promising young bands in South Carolina, and something tells me they’re just getting started.

Favorite song: “Come On Over”

15. Jah Jr. – Back 2 Da Dub

In order to fully understand Jah Jr.’s 2018 album Back 2 Da Dub, you first have to know that the album is written about Jah Jr.’s hometown of Dublin, GA. The lyrics tell stories about what it was like growing up in Dublin, the characters in the neighborhood, and Jah Jr.’s family life. This ties together with a nice Southern hip-hop feel and makes Back 2 Da Dub an enjoyable listen, and a positive sign for things to come in South Carolina hip-hop.

Favorite song: “Say Goodbye To My Soul”

14. Gardeners – Along The Heather

Gardeners are another exciting new bands that broke into the South Carolina music scene in 2018. Their debut album, Along The Heather, was released in August, and it instantly became a favorite on the statewide indie landscape. To call Along The Heather anything other than rock ‘n’ roll would be to lie, but you can certainly hear some punk and folk influence in this rock ‘n’ roll cocktail. The fact that the members of Gardeners were able to blend such a variety of influences into energetic rock music is probably what we like most about Along the Heather. Gardeners are one of the top SC bands to watch going into 2019.

Favorite song: “Cuts”

13. Dumb Doctors – Nervous System

Dumb Doctors are the closest thing to a cult band that Charleston can currently handle. Their early recordings were so lo-fi that they were hardly listenable, but they were still released on cassette and passed around the scene. These tapes continued to spread around, and now there’s a very tight-knit group of people that you will find at every single Dumb Doctors show. 2018’s Nervous System shows Dumb Doctors at the top of their game. It’s their most well-recorded album yet, and it that serves as a commentary on the society set to frontman Scott Dence’s dystopian mindscape. And then it was released on cassette.

Favorite song: “Dumb It Down”

12. Tape Waves – Distant Light

Tape Waves are an interesting band for a reason that’s been talked about to death in the media at this point. To give you the shortest possible version: they released Distant Light, their third full-length album, back in June and then proceeded to go on tour in Japan, which is where they happen to have their largest following. I guess the people in Japan have good taste in music, because Distant Light is a fantastic album. It’s very quiet and peaceful, so if you’re listening for the first time I recommend you wait until you have nothing to distract you. Zone out to some Distant Light and you’ll understand what the Japanese are going on about.

Favorite song: “Pale Moon”

11. Daddy’s Beemer – Pucker

Daddy’s Beemer moved to Charlotte this past summer, but when they released Pucker they were still a Clemson band. After a lengthy discussion on the matter over here at Extra Chill HQ, we’ve decided that this EP is too damn good to be left off the list. With Pucker, Daddy’s Beemer took that slacker rock sound that fans loved about their 2017 self-titled EP, and made it a bit more mature, subdued, and even added some horns here and there. It’s been in rotation around here ever since it was released, and that probably won’t stop until they put out something new (which I heard might be soon).

Favorite song: “Thespian”

10. Apricot Blush – Where Blew A Flower, May A Flower No More

With this album, Pablo Generation band Apricot Blush did not set out to make a bunch of pop hits, but rather reward listeners for their patience with building, cathartic folk rock. WBAF is a concept album inspired by the inuit story of Sedna, the Goddess of the underworld. Sedna’s story is told through the lens of Jackson Wise, songwriter and frontman for Apricot Blush who uses his platform on this occasion to look into substance abuse and self-development. Listen to this one straight through for maximum impact.

Favorite song: “Entrance to Medicine”

9. The High Divers – Chicora

2018 saw the release of the sophomore album from one of the most beloved bands in the Charleston music scene, The High Divers. Chicora was released in March following the band’s tour van being hit by a semi truck while touring the Southwest. The Charleston music scene rallied behind The High Divers to make the release of Chicora special. It was already one of the most anticipated albums of 2018, and the love shown for The High Divers in the music scene has added to the weight of this record. Neither the band nor the scene let anybody down with Chicora.

Favorite song: “Never Let You Down”

8. Whitehall – Ocean Fiction

The debut album from Whitehall, Ocean Fiction, is a snapshot of that moment in time when you’ve just finished college and you’re starting to try and screw your head on straight. This includes cutting back on drugs and alcohol, trying to find a sense of focus, and figuring out which relationships are meant to stick around and which ones are meant to burn out. Whitehall disguises this as nine party songs that try to make you move your feet and forget about all the problems of adulthood. Ocean Fiction doesn’t mean the party’s over, though. The party’s only getting started. It’s just more self-aware now.

Favorite song: “Wasted”

7. Little Stranger – Styles & Dynamics

Charleston hip-hop duo Little Stranger has seen an exponential increase in popularity over the past three years since the release of their debut album Buddha The Beast. Their feel-good brand of indie hip-hop has infected the eardrums of just about everyone in Charleston, and is in the process of reaching the rest of the Southeast and beyond. Their October 2018 release, Styles & Dynamics, is another solid serving of John Shields’ knack for sampling and Kevin Shields’ talent for the fast rhyme. This is the kind of shit you bump at your backyard barbecue.

P.S. – They’re not actually brothers.

Favorite song: “Agustina”

6. Darby Wilcox and the Peep Show – 11:11

Greenville-based Darby Wilcox has been a staple in the upstate South Carolina music scene for years, despite only having released one solo album prior to 2018. This was the year she finally got back into the studio, and this time it was with her band called The Peep Show, recording a laid-back folk rock album that would eventually be called 11:11. The album places Darby’s storytelling before a soothing instrumental backdrop. It’s got a gentle blend of emotion and abandon, inviting the listener to do some self-reflection and then just let it all float away…..

Favorite song: “Tell It Like It Is”

5. Rare Creatures – Rare Creatures

Rare Creatures have only been a band for a little more than a year, but they have already become one of the biggest bands in the Charleston music scene. Their self-titled debut album was released in July, and was fully embraced by the scene right from the start. It’s rock music with alternative influences and it translates really well into the live environment. Like most good rock music, Rare Creatures sounds better the louder you play it, so don’t blame us if you blow out your speakers on the intro. Go buy some better speakers then come back and listen to the rest of the album.

Favorite song: “Youth & Truth”

4. Walter Brown – IMOW

When Walter Brown’s IMOW first found its way onto the airwaves at Extra Chill HQ, we were completely blown away. We sent our fact-checking team to make sure that it was possible for hip-hop music of this caliber to come out of South Carolina. It was true. Walter Brown is a Charleston native who got into some trouble as a young adult and found his way into a five year sentence for armed robbery. When he was released he linked up with local producer Matt Tuton and got to work recording music. First came the 2016 EP Concrete Rose, then the 2017 album Saturdaze, but neither of those two are anywhere near as good as IMOW. This is required listening for Extra Chill readers.

Favorite song: “Do My Own Thing”

3. Bill Wilson – Stand Up!

Not only is Bill Wilson’s debut album Stand Up! one of the best albums to come out of South Carolina in 2018, but it’s also an amazing story. Bill Wilson is a Charleston native, and at the time of the recording of Stand Up!, he was 76 years old. He has played in various soul bands throughout his life, but it was not until he met local musician and music advocate Brian Compton that he set out to record an album of his own original songs. Brian helped Bill assemble an all-star cast of local talent for the band, and then they went into Rialto Row with Wolfgang Zimmerman to track what would become Stand Up!.

Favorite song: “You Can Count On Me”

2. Human Resources – Champagne

Human Resources has been bouncing around the South Carolina music scene for a while now. Their debut album, En Route, was released back in 2015, and their members have been floating through other projects since around that time, but they’ve always come back to Human Resources. Even with guitarist Dries Vandenberg touring with SUSTO, Human Resources found the time to record their newest album Champagne. All but two of the songs were recorded at drummer Matt Zutell’s Coast Records studio, and even the cover art was done in-house by keyboardist Paul Chelmis. Champagne was released in June, and it’s already become a staple in South Carolina music.

Favorite song: “Expectations”

1. She Returns From War – Mirrored Moon Dance Hall

With the release of Mirrored Moon Dance Hall, Hunter Park of She Returns From War was officially crowned queen of the South Carolina music scene. Most of us already knew that Hunter could not be f*cked with, but Mirrored Moon Dance Hall solidified that fact. The songwriting is completely out of this world, with Hunter weaving darkly poetic verse and stories between the most upbeat instrumentals that we’ve heard from her band to date. If we had to pick one album to represent South Carolina in 2018, Mirrored Moon Dance Hall would be it. And for that reason it takes the cake as our top South Carolina album of 2018. If you haven’t listened to Mirrored Moon Dance Hall yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Favorite song: “Athena”