Our favorite albums that missed the cut for Best of South Carolina Music 2022 | Free Times


Katera’s “Fear Doesn’t Live Here” album cover. 

Katera – “Fear Doesn’t Live Here”

It will always be hard for Katera to escape comparisons to H.E.R., given they strike a similar image as guitar-toting R&B traditionalists. But “Fear Doesn’t Live Here,” her debut LP, makes it clear that her true forte is stellar, catchy songcraft with a distinctive persona. From the opener “Refund” to lead single “No Phone Calls,” there’s a vision of strong womanhood more than capable of standing tall through all that love and heartbreak brings. Plus, guitar-centric pop tunes like “DNA” also suggest that Katera might be able to continue to add to her arsenal of tricks, even as accomplished and fully-formed as “Fear Doesn’t Live Here” is. KYLE PETERSEN

Quinn Cicala – “Arkansas”

Maybe it’s because I’m a journalist, but “New York Times” by Quinn Cicala has been in my head for the better part of this year. It’s from a former Myrtle Beach-based musician who just relocated to Atlanta: Quinn Cicala. His latest EP “Arkansas” kicks us off with a title track embodying Cicala’s notable folk storytelling balladry that continues with a catchy mountain road trip hit and move-on-with-your-life mantra, “Don’t Call Me.” “New York Times” is the single of the disc: a long distance, grief-tinged love song you won’t be forgetting any time soon. KALYN OYER

Angela Easterling – “Witness”

Keep your eyes on Angela Easterling. The Upstate singer/songwriter is making some serious noise with the long-awaited “Witness,” a dynamic collection of songs that move from autobiography to storytelling with incredible ease. With Easterling’s Rosanne Cash-esque voice leading the way, “Witness” is an absolute winner, mixing folk, rock and country and stating her case as one of our best singer/songwriters. Even on the album’s lone cover, a version of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” that seems sadly more relevant than ever, Easterling’s original voice shines through. VINCENT HARRIS

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Moses Andrews. Perry Mcleod/Provided

Moses Andrews III – “Exodus Pt. II”

Moses Andrews III is mostly known as a top-notch sideman in the Columbia scene, adding keys, drums and bass to groups that include band favorites GFATS, experimental nerd-rap outfit Autocorrect, sludgy stoner metal heads Space Coke, and windspun Americana band The Runout. He’s released his own solo stuff here and there, but Exodus Pt. II is a striking achievement in its scope, skill and execution, trying on everything from boom-bap grooves and country rambles to whispery balladry and garage-soul grit. It is also very much a record that interrogates the personal and political, delving deep into Andrews’ experiences being a young Black man in evangelical spaces and grappling with the current-day implications of our country’s strange and sordid history of racism. In a better world (or simulation), it would be essential listening. KYLE PETERSEN

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Doom Flamingo. Bain Stewart Media/Provided

Doom Flamingo – “In the Rain” (live)

Charleston synthwave sextet Doom Flamingo’s balance of vibey ’80s Miami pop and menacing, Blade Runner-indebted noir-rock jams was immediately distinctive when the group began playing in the late 2010s, but they’ve obviously and frighteningly blossomed live since then, which is sure to be a big part of the motivation behind this release. Driven largely by the heavy metal riffage of guitarist Thomas Kenney and the bountiful keyboard augmentations of Ross Bogan along to create a swirling world of sound all its own, the band also boasts powerhouse vocalist Kanika Moore, who can convincingly evoke Tina Turner, Freddie Mercury or Janet Jackson, depending on the track or the moment. It makes for a heck of show, and you can feel it through every sax solo, instrumental break and adrenaline-fueled chorus. KYLE PETERSEN

The Shady Recruits – “Incognito”

With blues-guitar phenom Marcus King behind the boards and sitting in on six-string, Greenville’s Shady Recruits made one hell of an album this year with the slinky, groove-stuffed “Incognito.” A sort of all-star collection of Upstate musicians and alumni from King’s own band, The Shady Recruits can pretty much do it all. If you want jazz-fusion, they’ve got you covered. If you want gritty rock and roll, you can find it here, and when it comes to funk, you’re in capable hands. VINCENT HARRIS

Sorry, Peach – “You Were Never Mine”

One of South Carolina’s few all-women bands came out with one of the best albums of the year in the Palmetto State. Sorry, Peach from Spartanburg dropped an eight-track alt-pop record that shines in confessional stripped-back moments. “I’ve Been Feeling Lonely” relays a straightforward diary entry we can all relate to, while “In Saturn’s View” features a slow-burn sonic eruption that rises from the ashes of a lost love. “Why You Blocked Me” gives us some folk energy while wallowing in the broken connections of this social media age, and “Things You Left” teases us with vivid poetic glimpses of the aftermath of a broken heart. KALYN OYER

Rufus Lee & The Handful – “The Ballad of Rufus Lee”

Sitting comfortably at the intersection of country and Southern rock, Rufus Lee & The Handful made an auspicious debut this year with the “The Ballad of Rufus Lee” album. Led by singer/songwriter Donnie Blackwell, the band treads a well-worn musical path, but they make it their own throughout the album. What’s amazing is how damned easy they make it sound. From the easy rolling “My Baby’s Gone” to the epic closer “The Ballad Of Rufus Lee,” this band of Upstate music veterans make first-rate Southern music. VINCENT HARRIS

KV Sewell – “King Tide”

Electro-pop splendor spellbinds with this synth-swirling record with a purpose from Charleston’s KV Sewell. Rhythms sway from a light sunlit dance to an enchanting celestial incantation, casting upon us the glittering glow of social justice. “Indigo” beckons for reparations for Charleston’s formerly enslaved people over a sonic backdrop that is reminiscent of West African drum beats. “Whose story will you choose to uphold? Will you lean into the shadows? It’s time to pay what is owed. Descendents deserve their Carolina Gold.” The following collaboration with Abstract That Rapper on “Tempo,” furthers the conversation. “We don’t blame the apple if the seed is rotten, tree is rotten. Chopped it down or just reaped the harvest. Fast forward, look where… that has got us.” KALYN OYER

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