Dec 232021
 
best vermont albums of 2021
20. Narrow Shoulders – Now Be Here

Spare and haunting, the debut release from Narrow Shoulders’ Zach Pollakoff does a lot with a little. Ambient noise, synth tones, the occasional pluck of guitar string, or a simple drum beat get layered just so to create an immersive instrumental world. The fact that Pollakoff works for A-list pop producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend, etc) in his day job is no surprise. Though the genres couldn’t be more different, Pollakoff clearly knows to to construct a soundscape.

19. Jack O’ the Clock – Leaving California


The only progressive rock I have much use for is Jethro Tull and Jack O’ the Clock’s new record scratches that folksy itch nicely (the band name even evokes a Tull song). No, there’s no flute solos, but a whole host of other instruments make appearances, from violin to harp to sudden bursts of choir – and that’s just in one track! Then the next song opens with a clarinet solo. It’s not a flute, but close enough. Continue reading »

Dec 222021
 
best vermont songs of 2021
25. Jade Relics – With You


My main gig is covering cover songs, so I appreciate a song that shouts out “Nina Simone covering Bee Gees” (that’s the 11th Best Bee Gees Cover Ever, in case you were wondering). A new production trio from three veterans of Vermont’s hip-hop scene – Elder Orange, IAME, Rico James – “With You” brings some freak-funk vibes, like some old Stevie Wonder sample. Maybe someone will cover this soon. Continue reading »

Jul 302021
 
best songs july 2021
Abby Sherman – I’ll Be There


Abby Sherman’s “I’ll Be There” is not a Jackson 5 cover, but the sentiment is much the same. It rocks a lot harder though, with some punchy swagger in the instrumentation and a killer guitar solo. The sound underpins Sherman’s bluesy belt in the Susan Tedeschi vein, which she really unleashes near the end. [Update: I must be prescient – a few days after I drafted this blurb, Susan actually sat in with Abby on this exact song!]

Adam Rabin – Maiden Voyage of the Acrolite


The slide guitar on “Maiden Voyage of the Acrolite” at first sounds like early Fleetwood Mac, but over the course of the two minutes the song morphs entirely, to a electro-prog-funk mash. It’s weird, but all those genres packed into such a small package works far better than you’d expect. Continue reading »

Apr 302021
 
best songs april 2021
Black Fly – Sign 2


Over a propulsive synth hook that recalls M83’s “Midnight City,” Black Fly’s Joseph Rittling delivers a catchy electro-post-punk song that grows and grows into something epic.

boys cruise – The Owls


On “The Owls,” punk trio boys cruise deliver an homage to Twin Peaks twice as loud as anything David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti put on the soundtrack. Read the lyrics at Bandcamp if you can’t make ’em out through the distortion to see how many Peaks references you can catch (with a side of Edgar Allen Poe thrown in for good measure). Continue reading »

Apr 012021
 
The Best New Songs of March
Aspetuck – Rescue Mission


Aspetuck (aka. Griff Fulton)’s bio says his music was inspired by immersing himself in the nightlife of New York and Los Angeles. Yet now he lives near where he grew up in rural Vermont, an area not exactly known for its club scene. Somehow I feel like that dichotomy comes across in “Rescue Mission.” You can imagine it playing on a dance floor somewhere, but it works equally well just sitting at home and vibing out. Continue reading »

Mar 012021
 
best new songs february 2021
A2VT – I’m a Soul Survivor


A2VT’s new single blends the group’s trademark sounds of Afropop, R&B, and hip-hop with a surprising twist: ’80s metal. After three extremely catchy minutes of singing and rapping, an epic guitar solo bursts forth by an actual ’80s-metal vet, Andre Maquera of 8084. It reminds of that time Kirk Hammett guested on a K’naan song, in the best way possible. Continue reading »

Dec 182020
 
best vermont albums

In the endless year-end debate about to rank or not-to-rank, I generally fall on the to-rank side. Putting some albums on and not others is already subjective, so why not go full bore? But I do find that things get increasingly arbitrary the further down the list you go. There is a difference in my mind between #2 and #3. But between #22 and #23? No, not really.

So this year I’m wimping out and doing a compromise: 30 albums, #11-30 unranked, and then the ranked Top Ten at the bottom. A method sure to satisfy no one! Seems appropriate for 2020. Continue reading »

Dec 142020
 
best vermont songs

You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 was a crummy year, for musicians especially. That certainly didn’t stop the flow of great songs though. Artists channelled collective fear and frustrations in a variety of ways. One song on this list is literally titled “2020.” Another complains about masks fogging up your glasses. Most, though, are not that literal. Some offer upbeat escapism; others complain about more personal problems than those in the news. They really only have one thing in common: I can’t wait until I can see them performed live.

Continue reading »

Oct 022020
 
sarah king

You can’t go far exploring the folk music tradition without stumbling upon your first murder ballad. The genre goes back hundreds of years and still plays a major role in blues, country, and Americana music today. Nirvana famously covered Leadbelly’s murder ballad “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” for MTV Unplugged. Johnny Cash sang murder ballads his entire career. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recorded an album literally titled Murder Ballads, adding Cave’s own compositions to the canon. Continue reading »

Sep 012020
 
songs of summer 2020

We’re back! After a summer away on paternity leave (can a blog take paternity leave? well, we did), County Tracks returns with a supersized roundup of everything that went on while we were away.

This is, as always, “we” in the proverbial sense. It’s really just me, Ray Padgett. And I have my second book out this week! It’s about music, of course. Specifically the history of tribute albums, as told through the fascinating story of one in particular (1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen – which, even if you don’t realize it, is the reason you know the song “Hallelujah”). It’s in the great 33 1/3 series of small books on specific albums. Hope you’ll check it out! Preorder links and more info over here.

Now, onto the music…

Abby Sherman Band – The Road


“The Road” is the first song on Bandcamp that Vermont singer-songwriter Abby Sherman has billed as being by the “Abby Sherman Band.” A minuscule rebranding, but one that feels significant. Whereas her best song last year was a stripped-down dirge, “The Road” features a muscular alt-country backing group giving her melody some heft. Special props to whoever played the country-Mark-Knopfler guitar solo. Continue reading »