We can all probably agree that against the odds, and with a few exceptions, 2021 has been a rebound year for Charleston music. Local musicians have started to get their footing back after the time spent in 2020 facing the idea that live music could be labeled nonessential.  

There have been a ton of new releases, such as Little Bird’s mind-expanding EP, Proxima: Gamma, Hot Mustard’s retro instrumental album, Mother Sauce, and Sounds of Black Fox’s elevated alt-rock debut, Sometimes Things Work Out — which is true, it turns out.

More than 1,000 people like you cast nearly 6,000 votes in this year’s City Paper Music Awards. Check out full list of winners here.

Tyrie 

Electronic/Experimental Act of the Year
Producer of the Year

Provided

It seems the complex music Tyrie is assembling has gotten some traction. For him, putting rap music in a different light or arranging chords and progressions in the right way is all about establishing a relationship with the listener.  

“That’s my whole passion around this — that my music is able to shed a light. Can I bend this genre a little bit? I guess that’s where the journey is leading me right now.”

It’s not only in exploring industrial trap concepts on his past three albums, but in producing for local hip-hop acts like Indi’Gxld, Semkari and Clayton James that Tyrie has expanded his signature.

 “One main big thing I’ve learned is don’t be afraid to learn,” he said. “Your project is a self-reflection of what you’re finding out and what’s going on in your reality and what you want to present.” 

That applies to media crossovers like his clothing brand, Collective Perception, another step toward being a channel for local and regional expression, be it visual or audible. 

“Can we collectively work out a way to bend everything together — I think we can. I just have to keep enforcing the idea that we can do this, that this will start to snowball together and keep rolling.”

She Returns From War

Country/Americana Band of the Year

Photo by Graham Morrison

On the last leg of her tour, Hunter Park recalled the moment at a show in a barn tucked away in Maquoketa, Iowa, when she stopped singing and 700 people sang the lyrics for her song, “Swamp Witch,” a magical moment for her “woman-abandoned-cosmic Americana” outfit, She Returns From War.

More than a ballad of self-actualization, Park’s latest single, “Snakeskin Boots,” marks a re-entry into writing a good-old empowering country song.

“I get down on myself, and then remind myself that I’m a strong personality,” she said of those times of feeling overwhelmed. “I like fashion and style, and I wanted to incorporate that imagery — like if you’re dressed to the nines, and if you’re looking fly, then you can get over whatever the fuck is going on
at any current time.” 

Affectionately framing her act as “tropical goth country,” Park has claimed a space in Charleston’s derivations of Americana. It’s not only the uniqueness of the location from which Charleston musicians write, but the moment’s-notice collaborations that allow for textured elements, she said.

“The community sustains itself off of people’s willingness to work together. One reason that I’ve stayed in Charleston as long as I have is you don’t get the same thing in other places — you have to work your way up some kind of invisible ladder.”

Juicethedon

Song of the Year 
Music Video of the Year
Hip-hop Act of the Year
Album of the Year: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Provided

To shake that pandemic hiatus feeling, Juicethedon put out three full length albums this year.

“I want to have my own blueprint,” he said of his immersion in the DIY hip-hop culture Charleston fosters. As a north-New Jersey transplant, Juice found a place within the local artist group, 187 Collective. 

His breakout song, “Ain’t Like Dat,” reflects a laid-back facet of his storytelling abilities, reminiscent of Run the Jewels or MF Doom. 

With his album, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, the title speaks for itself — “I’m not going to stop, I’m going to keep grinding.” The project came together at a time when he thought he really didn’t want to make anything else and his streams were at a standstill. But with each release, he grows into his next form. 

“Coming down here, it broke my heart, but I’ve found a life,” he said of growing up with musician parents involved in the New York City scene. “The whole North is an inspiration by itself, because that’s the mecca of hip-hop.” 

“Basically, ‘Ain’t Like Dat,’ it’s about the guy everybody doubts,” he said.

“We’re going to test him and try him, we’re going to try to break him down and he still prevails.”

Guardian’s Warlock

Metal Band of the Year

Provided

With nods to Iron Maiden and Motorhead, Guardian’s Warlock is delivering “thrash and power with a slight [bit] of punk,” said frontman PJ Steven. Moving from the studio back to the garage for its most recent output, the four-piece is not afraid to keep things for the band’s upcoming album. 

One thing the group is not in short supply of is character, literally — Steven will put on skits for Warlock promo videos with his bandmates, guitarist “Gentlemen Shredder” Dustin Broach, bassist Jaysus Rockso and drummer “Squeaky Stan” Danny Wilton. Characterization apparently carries into the songwriting as well, considering Warlock’s newest single, “The End is Near,” is about a villain from the video game, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

“We don’t want to just be jeans and shirts playing a couple songs, we have individual characters for our shows,” Steven said. “For example, right now, my character is reigning defending world heavyweight champion of Charleston and I come out
with a belt. Dustin, who is the cat man, will sometimes put on cat makeup. We do silly things like that to keep it fresh.”

Susto

Singer-songwriter of the Year

Photo by Sully Sullivan

“I think the changes as a writer reflect the changes that I’ve had as a
human being, just getting older and having more experiences that open up a
new depth,” said Justin Osborne on his journey leading Susto, Charleston’s
ever-fluid psych folk group that has stamped out tunes charting life, love and loss. 

“When I started Susto, I was determined to be confessional,” Osborne said. “There’s a common thread through all the Susto albums of me working through my own problems. And I’m beginning to realize I’ve leaned a little too heavily on songs to be my therapy, when really it’s more of an outlet.”  

On the edge of a 2022 tour for Susto’s fourth studio album, Time in the Sun, Osborne feels a marked balance in his songwriting, not just with knowing what is too much or too little collaboration or remembering to take notes before he forgets, but in being content.

“You might want to reinvent the wheel because you get bored, but your voice is going
to be your voice and your style of writing is not going to be as different as you think.”