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 »

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 »

May 292020
 
best new songs may 2020
Elder Orange – Stella


Matt Scott, aka Elder Orange, wrote his new EP Stella inspired by his ’71 Stella parlor acoustic guitar. But despite the acoustic guitar-influence, singer-songwriter music this isn’t. Scott’s a producer and composer who builds immersive instrumental soundscapes incorporating that guitar here and there, but not beholden to it. In this case, he says, “Stella is a blend of a lot of my favorite sounds; dusty 60’s funk rock laced with boom-bap alt-latin vibes and gritty electro-fusion.” 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 »

Mar 202020
 
vermont bandcamp

As you may have heard, Bandcamp is waving all its fees until midnight tonight to deliver 100% of the money to musicians. In this time of cancelled gigs and an uncertain future, artists need your support more than ever. So go nuts. To start, here are twenty-five great 2020 albums to buy there.

Note: Bandcamp’s site is currently pretty overloaded. So bear with it. And, if none of their embeds show up below, reload this page until they do. Continue reading »

Feb 182020
 
a2vt twenty infinity

A few years ago, a video called “Winooski, My Town” went semi-viral. Over a bouncy production, a group of young African refugees recorded an infectious Afropop tribute to their hometown. But this “Winooski” isn’t in the singers’ native Somalia or Tanzania. Winooski is in Vermont. The group calls themselves A2VT, and you can see why a recent Afropop Worldwide article felt the need to add a question mark to the end of their headline: “East African Bliss From Vermont?” 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 »