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 »

Oct 292021
 
best songs of october
Abby Sherman – The Weight


Take a load off, Abby… Wait, wrong “Weight,” sorry. This “The Weight” is an original song by Vermont singer-songwriter Abby Sherman, a heartfelt acoustic ballad with nary an appearance from Miss Moses or Crazy Chester. Sherman’s been dropping another killer single every few months for a while now, presumably (hopefully!) leading up to another record. 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 »

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 »

Mar 312020
 
Amelia Devoid – Side A


I was just listening to a podcast where the hosts were debating what type of music they needed during this crisis. One wanted peppy, upbeat songs to lift them from their funk. The other wanted downcast, inward-looking songs to match their current mood. No wrong answers. If you want something blissful and ambient to relax to, Amelia Devoid’s got you covered. Continue reading »

Jan 312020
 
best songs january 2020
A2VT – You Ma Numba 1


“African refugees in Vermont” is the elevator pitch, but their music offers so much more than just the human interest story. A duo of singers and rappers who go by Jilib and Pogi, augmented by a rotating cast of friends, they sing in English, Swahili, Maay Maay and a combination they refer to as “Swahenglish.” This infectious love song doesn’t hit as hard as some of the higher-energy songs on their great new album Twenty Infinity, but the joyous and insanely catchy chorus will burrow its way into your brain for days. Continue reading »

Dec 182019
 
best vermont 2019

Critics of ranked lists like this see it as a bug that they’re entirely subjective and somewhat arbitrary. I see it as a feature. There’s not really any difference between #12 and #13. Frankly, there’s not all that much difference between #1 and #25. But my feeling has always been, everyone gets that. No one actually thinks you can mathematically rank works of art. But the trying offers a wonderful opportunity for music nerds to look back at the best of the year, and for the sort of vigorous debate on which such nerddom rests. Continue reading »

Aug 302019
 
best new songs august 2019
Abby Sherman – Hand with the Devil


If the only Satan-themed violin song you’ve heard is “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Abby Sherman’s “Hand with the Devil” might throw you for a loop. Rather than rollickin’ fiddlin’, Abby Sherman and violinist Katie Trautz create something truly spooky, like the sort of Gillian Welch track you don’t play in the dark. Continue reading »

Jul 312019
 
best new songs july 2019
Adam Rabin – The Other Room


You’re going to want to sing along to “The Other Room” after a listen or two – but I wouldn’t. The sketches of plot offered sound like a sci-fi family dystopia, a Black Mirror episode for children.

The Cheyenne Brando – Samsonite


So thoroughly does Endtime Hymns evoke certain bands that one begins looking for echoes everywhere. Is the title “My Jean Sebring” a nod to David Bowie’s “Jean Genie”? Does “Poisonhead” reference ABC’s “Poison Arrow”? Was “Privacy of Lucy” inspired by The Cure’s “Pictures of You”? Each connection a greater stretch than the last, and likely none intentional. Christian Hahn does explicitly cite the heyday of post-punk and new-wave in his bio though, and, sonically, the comparisons are everywhere. His next song might as well be titled “Bizarre Love Triangle Will Tear Us Apart.” Continue reading »

Apr 032019
 
allison fay brown

At first listen, Vermont singer-songwriter Allison Fay Brown’s debut EP Cardinal is a warm and winning collection of folk-rock songs. But the EP boasts depths not immediately apparently skipping over the pleasant sonic surface. Take the title. The word “cardinal” signifies more than the arrival of spring, or the cover’s red lettering. “In astrology, cardinal signs signify the creators, and the beginning of things,” Brown says. “Myself, my mother, and my sister are all cardinal signs of different elemental zodiacs, and I wanted to pay homage to our strong feminine collective.” Continue reading »