Jul 022018
 

See previous monthly Best-Of lists here.

best songs june

The Big Sip – Two Hips / One Night


When an album features the credit “Tenor Sax (Track 5),” you know I’m starting with Track 5. And the sax doesn’t disappoint when it finally arrives on this arty-jam-funk journey, but there is so much going on beforehand you forget it’s coming. Crazy keyboard sound effects, off-kilter Phish rhythms, and some insistent melodies that push through the chaos. It’s off the band’s debut EP Sip Responsibly. Continue reading »

May 312018
 

See previous monthly Best-Of lists here.

best new songs may

Addy Sechler – Make Home to Me


One of the best albums of 2017 was Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me. It was also one of the toughest to actually listen to, being a songwriter frankly grappling with his wife’s sudden death. When you want that same quiet, hushed vibe, but don’t have the emotional bandwidth to sink into that weighty subject matter, Addy Sechler’s new album will suit just fine. Continue reading »

Mar 302018
 

best songs march

See previous monthly Best-Of lists here.

Aviation – Invisible Boy


In 1980, Queen delivered one of the great superhero themes of all time with “Flash.” If the Invisible Boy were a real superhero, Aviation gave him an equally bombastic theme song, a six-minute epic complete with piano crescendoes, scorching guitar solos, and canned applause. He’s not real, though. In fact, as you discover over the course of the song, he’s not exactly a superhero after all, just a lonely kid who sits by himself at lunch. Well, now he’s a lonely kid with an epic piano-prog theme song. Continue reading »

Mar 292018
 

a2vt

It has been a decade now since Said Bulle and George Mnyonge moved to Vermont as refugees from Somalia and Tanzania, respectively, but they are working to keep their traditions – and language – alive. Under the names Jilib and MG Man, the pair perform in the Burlington-based group A2VT. And on their new single “Faas Waa,” they blend English lyrics with verses both Swahili and in Jilib’s native Maay Maay, a variation on Somali.

“We Bantus are trying to keep our language alive, since it has only been a spoken language up until recently,” Jilib says in a press release. The language has only 1.75 million native speakers as of 2015 according to Ethnologue, a fraction even of Somalia’s 14 million people. 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 »

Jun 262017
 

vazy the field

Vermont has a reputation in some quarters as a bucolic wilderness playground. But there’s another side to the story. Much of the state is rural and poor, and those areas have been hit hard by the nation’s recent opioid epidemic, devastating already-struggling communities. One such community is the small town of Springfield – or “The Field,” as local rapper Vazy dubs it on his powerful new song. “I rep the ‘Field, boy,” he begins, “where people rob and steal just to get themselves a meal.” It doesn’t look up from there.

An indictment of drug abuse and a system that leaves the poor and addicted to die, the song addresses the town’s crime wave, rampant unemployment, and a local teen who died shortly after her father was murdered. Vazy’s lyrics come from personal experience; he spent several years in prison for dealing drugs some time ago. “You can hear the pain in the struggle in my voice,” he says.

One particularly powerful verse goes: Continue reading »

Mar 312017
 

David Chief

In the so-called streaming wars between Spotify, Apple Music,and the rest, Soundcloud often gets forgotten. Perhaps part of the reason is that it traditionally has not offered ads or any real way for an artist to monetize their work (though that’s changing), so bigger stars avoided the platform. As a result, it’s developed an ecosystem filled with up-and-coming experimentalists, particularly in hip-hop and electronic music.

One of the more recent Soundcloud breakouts is David Chief. A 22-year old producer in Burlington, he’s only been recording music for a few years, but a recent track called “roots” has racked up almost 40,000 streams on Soundcloud, and others aren’t far behind.

“I’ve been teaching myself producing/beatmaking for 4 years now, ever since moving to Vermont in 2013 for college,” he says. “I started as just a fan who liked Soundcloud for the underground & independent artists, and eventually fell in love with the chill, boom-bap stuff and decided to try it myself. I really liked how the beatmaking scene was like a little community. When I first started out, nobody wanted to collaborate or drop a follow, but as a really active user of Soundcloud, people began to take notice of my page.” Continue reading »

Feb 142017
 

self portrait

“We are attempting to make a tape just for fun,” says the sampled announcer at the start of hip-hop trio Self Portrait’s new single. But on “Fears Are Foolish,” the Vermont-based rappers and producers have more on their minds than fun.

“I was really just trying to point out different points in my life that generated fear for myself or others,” says rapper Trono. “I had to come hard to show I cannot be afraid of what I know I can do. Every time you challenge your fears, push the envelope, do what you know you must, you grow stronger and progress more.” 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 »