Jul 192017


A few months back, Vermont songwriter Tyler Daniel Bean released a music video that uses haunting imagery to show what it feels like when depression takes over. The heavy music matched the mood, loud and unrelenting like it was closing in on all sides.

New Middlebury dreampop trio Jinxbox tackles similar themes on their new album Relief, but through a very different genre. The sun-drenched melodies deliver earworm after earworm, but the lyrics stem from a much darker place. Nine Inch Nails could easily have written the opening lines of the song “Static”: Continue reading »

May 262017

j bengoy

We’re at that point in the year where music critics start handicapping the Song of the Summer. What will be 2017’s “One Dance,” “Fancy,” or “Blurred Lines”? Well, we’ve got an under-the-radar contender to throw in the ring. It might not be the Song of the Summer, but it could be your Song of the Summer.

It’s “So Good (I Could Die),” the infectious new single from Vermont quintet J Bengoy. The track has all the traits of a perfect summer song: Catchy, poppy, upbeat, and with a feel-good message to boot. Continue reading »

May 092017

joey pizza slice

Joey Agresta has recorded under some odd names over the years: Joey Pizza Slice, Son of Salami, Salami Junior (they were all food-related). He gave his songs titles like “My Penis Is a Fortune Teller” and “I Never Wanna Take Acid Again.” But despite the jokey presentation, his weird and off-kilter pop experiments earned him fans in bands like Future Islands and Parquet Courts, with whom he released a split 7″.

Now he’s getting serious.

Sort of.

For the first time, the artist formerly known as Joey Pizza Slice has hung up his dough to record under his own name. Compared to much of his out-there past work, his debut album Let’s Not Talk About Music (out this Friday) is downright pretty, channeling shimmery bedroom pop like Ariel Pink or Washed Out. Unlike his seemingly tossed-off past exploits, he took three years to record this album, mostly on a pair of old cassette machines. As the press writeup says, “Contained here are songs of a hopeful sadness that mirror the darkness of these times and the decaying heart of the songsmith. This is Agresta’s most personal and sincere work thus far” (not exactly a high bar). Continue reading »

Apr 112017


We named Madaila’s “Secret” the Second Best Song of 2016. “Realization,” off the same album Traces, is almost as good. Though Traces can get spacey and psyched-out at times, both tracks showcase the new-wave pop songwriting chops of frontman Mark Daly, a man who knows his way around a catchy hook.

The band just released a new music video for the track, taking over Burlington, Vermont costume shop Old Gold for a fashion show. It’s the biggest thing that’s happened to musical thrift shops since Macklemore. And if the video’s intro music sounds appealing, it appears to be a MIDI version of one of Madaila’s other great songs, “Give Me All Your Love”. Continue reading »

Feb 202017

francesca blanchard

In 1966, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs had an unlikely hit with “Little Red Riding Hood,” a novelty song about a wolf putting the moves on a forest maiden (though after their previous hit “Wooly Bully,” perhaps nothing that followed can be described as unlikely). That wolf was lascivious, with leering lyrics like “What full lips you have / They’re sure to lure someone bad…” So much for sheep’s clothing!

The tables turn in Francesca Blanchard‘s new video for her terrific single “My Heart.” It stars the Michael Cera of wolves, shy and reticent as he leads her on a slo-mo forest chase. He’s like a more adult version of Hobbes to her Calvin and a whole lot different than Sam the Sham’s wolf – less “Wild Thing,” more Where the Wild Things Are. Continue reading »

Feb 102017

henry jamison cover

Phish and Grace Potter. For years those two have stood as the tentpoles of Vermont’s breakout musicians. But in recent years, a number of great local artists have begun nipping at their heels. Artists like Madaila, Kat Wright, and The DuPont Brothers are touring and getting attention on the national scene and show few signs of slowing down.

The latest of these is Henry Jamison, who last year earned plaudits from the likes of Consequence of Sound and Vice for his wonderful EP The Rains (home to our sixth favorite song of 2016). Now, to promote his current tour, he’s released a new song. This one’s a cover of another great songwriter: Gordon Lightfoot and his classic “If You Could Read My Mind.” Continue reading »

Jan 172017

The other day, I stumbled upon a new two-song EP by an artist I’d never heard of: mouselion. The name turns out to be an apt moniker, as his lo-fi rock songs creep in like a mouse but tend to build to lion’s roars. Quiet dirges explode into a storm of feedback, while loud rockers can abruptly collapse into barely-there whispers. Like Kurt Vile or even Bonnie “Prince” Billy, mouselion contains multitudes.

mouselion is also outrageously prolific, releasing four albums and three EPs in 2016 alone. And judging by how long it took him to drop 2017’s first EP (ten days), this year could be equally productive. It’s lot of music for someone who appears to have no online presence beyond an anonymous Bandcamp page. Continue reading »

Jan 062017

When I launched this blog last month, I kicked things off with The Best Vermont Albums of 2016. I said after that I’d move on to what’s next, not just what already happened. Which I will, I swear (and I have a bit, highlighting great new material from Vultures of Cult (R.I.P.), The New Line, and 1881). But first, one final retrospective.

When putting together the Best Albums list, I realized many of my favorite 2016 songs were not on proper albums. They were from EPs, singles, preview tracks from 2017 albums, covers, or other one-offs. So, for one last look back, we’re counting down our favorite Vermont-made songs of the past year. Then onto 2017. Promise. Continue reading »

Jan 052017

During the past couple years, everyone from Courtney Barnett to Miguel has gained their first fans by releasing a series of killer EPs before dropping a proper album. The Vermont sextet 1881 are following the same route, in the past year debuting with EPs Lights and Camera. Their latest comes titled – you guessed it – Action. Now that they’ve run out of words in that phrase, hopefully that means a full-length is up next.

1881 describes themselves as “retro pop rock” and you’ll definitely hear ’60s pop influences on Action: one part Zombies, two parts Beach Boys. But the retro tag doesn’t totally do them justice. Rather than just an exercise in blinders nostalgia, the band draws from contemporaries as well. “Everyday Weekend” channels the riotous party hollers of Low Cut Connie and “Mass Murderer” channels the psych-pop harmonies of Jacco Gardner (though, admittedly, both Connie and Gardner are plenty retro as well).

The tightness of frontman Rob Slater’s songwriting truly elevates them above kitsch. The tight and incredibly catchy tracks on EP #3 range from Fountains of Wayne-style power pop (“Not Quite As Good”) to slightly Byrds-y country ballads (“8 Long Years”). “Retro” sounds antiquated. This sort of music is timeless. 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 »