The 10 Best South Carolina Albums of 2020
At the end of every year, most of us spend some time thinking about the year we just finished living, and blogs like Extra Chill publish year-end lists of all their favorite music. That time has come once again, although for obvious reasons 2020 feels a lot different. The music scene as we once knew it no longer exists, and now we’re faced with an uncertain future as we head into the new year.
One thing that 100% for certain does still exist, thankfully, is the music itself. And 2020 has been an excellent year for new music releases. All of this free time in quarantine has allowed artists to really dig into their pursuits, resulting in an extremely high creative output from talented artists all across the board. South Carolina artists have been no exception, and 2020 saw some impressive releases in the SC music sphere.
Extra Chill has also had a transformative year. All this free time has allowed us to truly re-think what we’re doing here, and thanks to some bright ideas from our editorial team, we’ve set ourselves up to become a much more sustainable venture going forward. We’ve expanded our perspective to cover a much wider range of genres and topics, including mostly the Grateful Dead, and we’re very excited for how this website will continue to grow. We also just had our 10th birthday. That’s an entire decade of Extra Chill.
Thank you to everybody who reads this blog, and especially those of you who have been here from the start and are still reading this blog. When the time comes to throw another raging party, rest assured that Extra Chill will host an Extra Chill Fest that blows anything we’ve ever done way out of the water. We’ve drawn up charts and plans for the most epic music festival this world has ever seen, and we’re working with several overseas investors to make it happen as soon as COVID has safely been eradicated from the earth.
Anyway, the time has come for our annual list of the best South Carolina music of the year. In the past we have published extensive lists of 20 albums or more, but this year we’ve decided to keep it simple and narrow it down to our 10 favorite South Carolina albums. This ended up being more difficult than we intended, and there are many more releases in South Carolina music worth checking out. Dig into that in our new music archives.
See the 10 best South Carolina albums of 2020 below.
10. Hermit’s Victory – Rain at the Boardwalk
Right near the beginning of quarantine came a highly appropriate release from none other than Hermit’s Victory. While we were all feeling lost and searching for a new path forward, Rain at the Boardwalk came along and offered a perspective from somebody who built their entire musical persona upon alone time. Rain at the Boardwalk offers late night lo-fi music for lost souls. It’s the third album from Hermit’s Victory and in my opinion the best one yet.
Read our full feature on Rain at the Boardwalk here.
9. Baby Yaga – Fuck EP
The rock star dreams of Charleston’s Presley Randall start to come true with the release of Baby Yaga’s irreverent debut EP, Fuck. This EP has been highly anticipated ever since Baby Yaga released their first single, “Not Even!” back in 2018 and subsequently landed a few gigs opening for SUSTO. The band has developed quite a bit since then, notably switching from a three-piece to a four-piece, and Presley herself has continued to hone her guitar skills. Fuck reflects that development with a gritty, punk-influenced collection of rock songs that brings a comfortable blend of nostalgia and angst to a pair of eardrums near you.
Check out our video premiere for “Going to Hell” off the Fuck EP here.
8. Retired Astronauts – Retired Astronauts
This past summer, alternative hip-hop duo Retired Astronauts dropped into our inbox to submit their delightfully strange self-titled debut album. The project was an experimental album produced using guitar tracks flipped backwards, with rapping over the eerie beats that result. Crafted by a duo consisting of Laika and Tobagun, Retired Astronauts is one of the most unique and creative albums I’ve ever heard from a South Carolina artist and that alone gives it merit, but Tobagun’s verses are what will really keep you listening.
Read our full review of Retired Astronauts here.
7. Babe Club – Remember This Feeling
Babe Club’s debut EP, Remember This Feeling finally arrived in late 2020 and it’s just as good as everybody knew it would be, because the band had been playing most of these songs on the road for at least two years. The much-delayed release did lessen the impact a bit, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the music, which is very good (especially “Need A Girl”). Babe Club has an appeal that transcends the music and becomes an entire personality, starting with the songs and extending to their whole operation. This gives the band and the songs a genuine feel, with a certain kind of millennial badass rock and roll attitude that I believe will take them far. Remember This Feeling is a solid debut, but we all know that Babe Club can and will release something even better in the future.
6. Jah Jr. – Here I Go
Jah Jr. continued his story this year with the release of Here I Go, the first departure from the Dublin, GA theme that was started in 2018 with Back 2 Da Dub and continued on consecutive releases. Here I Go has Jah Jr. expanding as a songwriter, choosing to get personal on tunes like “Scarred” while still maintaining the hype that he’s known for with tracks like “Quality”. Jah Jr. is one of the most consistent and focused artists in the South Carolina hip-hop scene, and Here I Go is a banging example of his continued artistic development.
5. Dead Swells – Dead Swells
Dead Swells have been an indie staple in the South Carolina music scene for several years now, and 2020 finally saw the release of their full-length debut, the self-titled Dead Swells. The album represents a creative step forward for Dead Swells mastermind Paul Nederostek, who cooked up the record mostly himself, with some help from producer Wolfgang Zimmerman. The result is a laid-back psychedelic vibe that sounds like a grown-up, more thoughtful edition of the self-titled EP they released back in 2017, and Paul’s creative exploration points toward even more innovation in their sound going forward.
Check out our premiere of a live session for “MLD” off Dead Swells here.
4. Stagbriar – Suppose You Grow
Stagbriar made a big comeback in 2020 with the release of the new album Suppose You Grow, the first new record to come from sibling duo Emily and Alex McCollum since 2013. The record takes the gentle indie folk sound that Stagbriar founded themselves upon and injects it with an electric element that brings a maturity to the sound that parallels the lyrical themes on the album. Suppose You Grow invokes some of the darker emotions associated with growing up and plays them out with a relatable honesty and just the right amount of angst.
3. CrucialBGR – Big Bad 3!
After first entering our radar on the Amethyst in SC project, CrucialBGR has quickly become one of our favorite rappers in South Carolina. His July release of Big Bad 3! was quite the statement, with tracks putting his effortless style on full display. There are no fancy pop production embellishments here, just beats and bars, which is all CrucialBGR needs to keep you engaged, anyway. This album has gotten some nice buzz going in the scene for CrucialBGR and we’re expecting that buzz to amplify even more as we roll into 2021.
2. Daddy’s Beemer – Denmark
Daddy’s Beemer may have caused us some problems this year, but they made up for it with the release of their full-length debut album, Denmark. It feels a bit like watching your little brother graduate from high school, actually. Because yes, they’re annoying, but you’re still proud of them. We’ve been covering Daddy’s Beemer on this website since 2016, back when they were getting ready to release their debut EP. Back then we were pushing around in mosh pits together at Makeout Reef. Now they’ve got a record deal and are starting to blow up, and it’s clear that they’re headed towards a bright future. Cheers to Daddy’s Beemer.
Read our full review of Denmark here.
1. Amethyst in SC
In terms of what it means for the music scene, the 2020 release of the first Amethyst in SC album was the single most important musical happening in SC this year, and perhaps even since Benny Starr’s live recording of A Water Album at the Charleston Music Hall in 2018. The collaborative hip-hop album was curated by Charleston-based creative Black Dave, and features 27 songs from over 50 different artists and producers based in South Carolina.
Amethyst in SC was important because it was the first time that something like this had happened in South Carolina. The SC hip-hop scene has often been criticized for a lack of collaboration between artists, and here we have tons of South Carolina hip-hop artists coming together for a huge release. This project has opened the door for creative collaboration between artists from different sects of SC hip-hop, and made an awesome variety pack of local hip-hop in the process.
We’re already seeing the positive impact of this album in several collaborations that have come from artists on the roster since its release, and there was enough interest in the scene to facilitate a second installment to be recorded. That recording took place in December, so we should be hearing more about Amethyst Part 2 in the coming months.
In addition to opening a few creative floodgates, Amethyst has also introduced many music fans in SC to a deep hip-hop scene that they didn’t even know existed. The easiest example of this for me to name is right here on Extra Chill, as Amethyst was a catalyst for our increased coverage of hip-hop in 2020, and introduced us to many of our new favorite South Carolina rappers.
The long-term impact of Amethyst in SC has yet to be seen, but it seems like we’re on the verge of some serious growth in South Carolina hip-hop over the next few years, thanks in no small part to things set in motion by this album.