Dec 102018
 

On a new album, Vermont metal trio Savage Hen deliver three Christmas carols you probably shouldn’t play at your office holiday party.

The band pulverizes three classic shopping-mall holiday tunes, thundering through “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” All have been covered thousands of times, but rarely with this much throat-shredding screaming. Bing Crosby this ain’t. Continue reading »

Oct 012018
 

See previous monthly Best-Of lists here.

A Box of Stars – Cornfields


Never before have I Googled a mixing engineer’s name, but Josh Druckman’s work feels as vital to building such a pristine, delicate beauty of a record as the actual musicians (who, for the record, are Macaulay Lerman on guitar and vocals; Claire Londagin on vocals; Jens Hybertson on violin; Eben Schumacher on bass, piano, and guitar; and Tim Halteman on drums). Take “Cornfields.” Enigmatic lyrics swirl around minimalist instrumentation, subtle percussion delicately balancing with windy violin. It’s not flashy music, and folky slowcore of this sort often lands in the background-music category. But the band’s just-so playing, presented perfectly, demands attention. Continue reading »

Dec 122017
 

best vermont music 2017

What is an EP?

I don’t mean that as a philosophical question, but a practical one.

Back in the vinyl era, the EP had a clear reason for existing as a stand-alone format from the album. If you had enough songs to fill a 12-inch, 33RPM record, you made an album. If not, you put what you had on a 10-inch, 45RPM record and called it an EP. They looked different; they felt different; they cost different amounts.

In the digital era, free of physical limitations, the distinction has blurred. An artist’s latest collection of music can be two songs or two hundred. The idea that a 60-minute collection of music constitutes an “album” and a 15-minute one constitutes an “EP” is purely artificial.

Yet the EP hangs on, because musicians like the format. Nowhere more so than in Vermont, where the EP offers new bands a way to test the waters and experienced bands a way to toss out a few songs between “proper” albums. In a musical climate where local musicians rotate constantly around new bands and monikers, the EP offers a low-stakes way to try out a new sound or collaboration.

As a result, this list is no ugly stepchild to the Best Albums list we’ve got coming next week. There may be no more practical reason to keep the EP designation, but these ten EPs justify their own reasons for existing. Continue reading »

Jul 272017
 

Skalna

Ever since Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath first read Lord of the Rings, the road to Mordor has been paved with metal. The latest Tolkien-loving metal band comes from a Puerto Rican musician now based in Vermont, Etienne Tel’uial. His new droning symphonic metal project Skalnâ takes its name from a primitive form of Elvish that appears in Tolkien’s twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth. Safe to say, Tel’uial is not some Peter Jackson-come-lately Tolkien fan.

“The name ‘Skalnâ’ comes from primitive Elvish (Quendian), which means ‘veiled, hidden, shadowed, etc,'” Tel’uial tells us. “I chose a Tolkien name simply because they sound beautiful. I grew up with the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so bringing up Tolkien is always like returning back in time. I wanted an ‘elvish’ tone to the name, because I am obsessed with the notion of Elves. They were the first conscious creations of the Valar (the forces of nature) under Eru (the one). While the whole idea of Elves may be seen as just a mythological notion, I still think they are symbols for something real in this earth. They are the good within us. They are remnants of a time when we lived free and within nature, and not separate from it.”

Like we said, Tel’uial knows his Tolkien. But you can enjoy Skalnâ’s debut album Returning to the Flame even if you’ve never cracked The Hobbit. A heavy and beautiful combination of black metal, post-rock, and symphonic chant, it recalls avant-garde artists like Scott Walker or Xiu Xiu. Tel’uial himself calls it “romantic raw post-metal” – as good a label as any for these shifting sounds. Continue reading »

May 032017
 

waking windows vermont

We normally don’t do concert previews here. My goal with this young blog is to spread the gospel of Vermont music to an audience beyond the state’s sometimes-confining borders. And writing about regionally-specific events generally goes against that mandate.

This weekend’s Waking Windows festival is an exception.

Waking Windows is the Vermont music scene in microcosm. In some respects the Burlington equivalent of SXSW, Waking Windows surrounds a few bigger names (Real Estate and Dan Deacon this year) with dozens of the state’s best local bands. Naming the best Vermont artists playing the festival almost doubles as naming the best Vermont artists period. And that is exactly our mandate. Continue reading »

Mar 012017
 

Our favorite album of 2016 was a one-track doom metal record, from a Vermont band that sadly broke up right after releasing it. Maybe bleak winter weather inspires heavy and somber music though, because a glut of fellow doom merchants up north have already stepped in to fill the void. We’ve picked the four best, strong stoner and Sabbath vibes to help blast away the gloom. Continue reading »

Jan 132017
 

Classic Vermont Albums digs up great and sometimes forgotten albums from Vermont’s musical past.

8084

In addition to looking at the best new music coming out of the state of Vermont, we will periodically dive into the archives to look at the best from the Green Mountain State’s musical history. To kick off a series simply titled Classic Vermont Albums, we’re going to look at an album that isn’t just dated chronologically, it’s dated period. But we don’t mean that as a bad thing.

In the mid-1980s, bands like Van Halen and Bon Jovi were massive, so it figures that many towns with their own music scene would produce imitators. And that’s just what 8084 started out as, a band covering all the hair-metal hits of the day. They performed hair-metal and arena-rock covers for parties and bars around Vermont. They dressed the part too, all leopard-skin shirts and huge teased manes, looking like Twisted Sister with a smaller makeup budget. Continue reading »

Jan 032017
 

In our inaugural post last week, we named Vultures of Cult’s album Pastoral the best Vermont-made album of 2016. The doom-metal quartet have been area mainstays for a decade, but sadly, in addition to being their best album, Pastoral will be their last. A member is moving away and they won’t continue without him.

However, the band has released one final song, the storming seven-minute “In Atlas’ Gait.” The track serves as a perfect introduction to Vultures of Cult, blending stoner riffs with hollow hollering straight from the edges of the abyss. Fans of Harvey Milk or, more obviously, Black Sabbath will find a lot to like here. Continue reading »

Dec 282016
 

Welcome to County Tracks, a new blog that aims to explore music new and old from the great state of Vermont. We’ll be kicking off in full in January, but we couldn’t let 2016 pass us by without a look back at all the great music the Green Mountain State produced. From heavy metal to light-as-air folk, Burlington to Brattleboro, Vermont musicians delivered incredible albums across the musical spectrum. Check out our countdown below, and see you back here next year. Continue reading »