According to a list compiled in the INDYthen, still the Independent Weeklyin 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 Barhamthe only member of American Aquarium who’s still in the groupgripes 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 sinceespecially this year’s Autumncan 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


Hall of Justus

Soldiers of Fortune // ABB

The public dissolution of the Triangle hip-hop trio Little Brother began shortly after the release of its 2005 album, The Minstrel Show, and the fallout signaled the larger disintegration of its fifteen-member collective, Justus League. Several Justus League acts had just released stellar projects of their own, but Little Brother’s impending breakup had already taken its toll on team morale. Justus League boss man Big Dho salvaged as much as he could from the drama by forming the Hall of Justus label and debuting it with a compilation that paired his old crew with affiliates like Jozeemo, Joe Scudda, Skyzoo, and Sean Price. At its core, Soldiers of Fortune wasn’t much of a departure from Justus League’s usual formula of chain-linked boom-bap, but the supplemental splash of bully raps from Jozeemo and Sean Price on “Tired” and the club-ready showboating of “Jus Chillin” distanced the project from its roots. Perhaps if Big Dho would’ve stuck to his guns, Hall of Justus would now be on the same level of Jamla Records, built by Justus League cofounder 9th Wonder. But maybe it’s OK for an empire to fall, as long as it sounds good on the way down. Eric Tullis


Be Still Please // Merge

By the time Mac McCaughan released Be Still Please in October 2006, Portastatic had more or less gone from side project to center stage. Every year removed from 2001’s Here’s to Shutting Up, it looked as though Superchunk, McCaughan’s legendary indie rock band, was winding down for good. But Be Still Please, in a way, portended Superchunk’s return. When it ran concurrently with Superchunk, Portastatic served as a clearinghouse for ideas that didn’t quite jibe with McCaughan’s main gig. But the moods and motifs that McCaughan explored on Be Still Please set the stage for the warm, nostalgic fuzzies of Superchunk’s late-period rockers. Opener “Sour Shores” wouldn’t sound out of place on 2013’s I Hate Music; drive the guitars on “I’m In Love (With Arthur Dove)” a little harder, and the song could’ve been the lead single on 2010’s Majesty Shredding. Be Still Please would be Mac McCaughan’s last proper album as Portastatic, and Superchunk returned to (mostly) full-time status with Majesty Shredding. McCaughan released a synthy solo record, Non-Believers, last year under his own name. Patrick Wall

Roman Candle

The Wee Hours Revue // Hollywood

In the early aughts, when Chapel Hill’s Roman Candle burned as bright as its namesake with heartfelt, hard-hitting rock songs, The Wee Hours Revue was its record that almost wasn’t. The Wee Hours Revue, the band’s major-label debut, was a complete reconstruction of the band’s first record, Says Pop, boasting cleaner, more focused production. However, problems with the label meant the album was shelved for two years before its 2006 release, and the record never got the promotional push it deserved. It’s a shame that The Wee Hours Revue got sandbagged the way it did; songs like “You Don’t Belong to This World” are some of the best shout-along anthems to ever come out of the area. Roman Candle got caught up in collapsing music-industry machinations once again shortly after the record’s release, but even that wasn’t enough to extinguish the flameit released two more records, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear in 2009 and Debris in 2013. Allison Hussey

The Never

Antarctica // Trekky

Billed as a “storybook record” and accompanied by a picture book illustrated by band member Noah Smith, The Never’s Antarctica was a major undertaking for a little Chapel Hill band. From a folk-pop base, the band built a narrative that followed the seasons changing from summer to winter and a tale about fleeing an evil witch. Even in the moments where Antarctica teeters on the edge of twee, it remains a cohesive, pretty LP. The Never fizzled out just a few years after Antarctica, and Ari Picker left the band the same year as its release, but Picker would go on to craft stunning records with Lost in the Trees. It’s impossible to listen to Antarctica now without hearing early inklings of Picker’s grand ambitions. Allison Hussey

DeYarmond Edison

The Bickett Residency, Vol. 1 // Self-Released

In early 2006, DeYarmond Edison, a quartet of Wisconsin natives in their mid-twenties who’d relocated to Raleigh together, convened at the Bickett Gallery for a creative residency that focused on each member examining his musical strengths and weaknesses and pushing himself to grow artistically. The resulting recording of this project became The Bickett Residency, Vol. 1. Each memberPhil Cook, Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, and Justin Vernonleads a section of the record, which shifts among folk standards, jazz-inspired freakouts, and phased keyboard instrumentals. The Bickett Residency proved to be an important crucible from which DeYarmond’s Edisons members would chase their respective ideas for the next several years: it’s easy to hear the musical seedlings that would yield the wooly freak-folk of Megafaun, the colorful intricacy of Grandma Sparrow, and the distinct mournfulness of Bon Iver. Even as DeYarmond Edison spun out into different projects, The Bickett Residency arguably helped make it all happen. Allison Hussey

This article appeared in print with the headline “Makers’ Mark.”