Monday, July 13, 2015
From A to Zanders: A CT Indie / Alternative Anticipation Guide 2015
The following article was submitted by writer Dan Ostasiewski
The following is a list featuring 15 of many bands / artists around Connecticut that we are looking forward to hearing new music, or proper debuts from by the end of 2015.
Ports of Spain
New Haven duo Ports of Spain have been confounding expectations for years now: How hasn't the band been crushed by the weight of their own potential? Since their inception in 2011, few Connecticut bands have generated such a clamoring cult of fans in hope for more of their signature blend of epic indie pop meets post-rock guitar loops.
It's easy to see why. On 2011's Winter's Teeth and 2013's Oh, Surrender EPs, guitarist IIya Gitelman and singer / drummer Sam Carlson crafted seven songs that feel both foreign and familiar, complex but refined to the most human virtues. And they rocked while doing it. Rather than simply writing a song on guitar and then just adding drums to the mix, these songs sound like the actual product of hours of hard work in live jam sessions between the two musicians. Compare the meticulous guitar arrangements of title track “Winter's Teeth”, to the falsetto layered jams of “Something Like a Frail Machine.” This stuff showcases live energy that just isn't captured the same way in a solo acoustic setup.
Recently, Carlson has claimed that a six song EP is finished and will released sometime in mid-July, with another new batch of new songs already in the works. He went further on to say the songs on the new record were “an exercise in writing music with a more focused verse / chorus structure” than previous efforts, while the next batch “will probably return to more unconventional routes.”
Listen below to the Winter's Teeth and Oh, Surrender EPs.
photo by Mary Rudzis
With both CT Indie powerhouses Sorority Noise and Two Humans under their belt, guitarist Jason Rule, bassist Kevin O'Donnell, and drummer Adam Ackerman will finally release their first full length for new project Queen Moo “sometime this fall.” Unless you were lucky enough to catch a show or download a promising demo (now removed) from their Bandcamp, you will have to wait until the official release to hear how Queen Moo has deconstructed the sturdy indie rock template set by those previous two bands and evolved into a defiantly modern indie rock band. Unpredictable riff heavy chord progressions? Check. Irregular song structures? Check. Dueling, manic depressive vocals? Check. A pop sensibility that reigns in all of these unconventional qualities into something accessible? Check.
Listen / Watch singer/guitarist Jason Rule make dinner alongside a demo of a new song that may or may night be on the new record:
Violent Mae's new album has been done. Well, not absolutely finished—there is a plan to crowdfund a proper mixing, mastering, and pressing for the record. But ever since fortune put songwriter Becky Kessler and multi-intrumentalist Floyd Kellogg in the studio together, the band has seemed two steps ahead of the curve.
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2013, Violent Mae has toured nationally, played alongside larger acts, recorded a few live sets (including an awesome submission for NPR's “Tiny Desk Series”), peaked at #88 on the CMJ charts, and received accolades from the CT Music Awards and numerous publications.
Perhaps “fast paced” is not the most obvious description of the two-piece, who's Americana-tinged dream pop simmers like the cool blue of their album cover. But even on melancholic highlights “Any Time You Fall” and “Man in the Country”, Kessler sings with a muted urgency, Kellogg's production and minimalist drum work tastefully accenting the songs with a proper ambience.
Violent Mae aims to release their new album for October 2015. Watch / Listen below to Violent Mae's “Man in the Country” Live Cave Session performance.
Riding off their recent New England Music Awards win for Best Songwriter, New Haven stalwarts Elison Jackson have announced via Facebook that they will be returning to the studio to record a follow up to 2013's excellent Do Not Fear to Kill a Dead Man.
Featuring an eclectic blend of folk, garage rock, and psych production, DNFTKADM was a full band effort that amplified frontman and principal songwriter Sam Perduta's acoustic songs and decorated them with a wide range of instrumentation and tones, including variety of keys / organs / synthesizers, electric and upright bass, mandolins, chimes, harmonicas, and singing saw.
Since the release of that album, Perduta has been quietly releasing solo, acoustic demos on Bandcamp. These sparse bedroom sketches don't only serve as promising warm ups for the full band record, but are also enjoyable in their solitude, giving Perduta's vibrating baritone emotional resonance and some real room to breathe.
Listen below to Deadman single “2009” and solo demo “Paranoid Poets”
I know, we all miss The Guru. That band holds a special place in the collective heart of the Connecticut indie scene. But good bands bands come and go, and with the loss of that band we now are bestowed with Strange Kids. Featuring three of the founding members of The Guru, Kyle McEvoy, Colin Sullivan, and Adam Strauss, all have rotated their instruments and joined forces with new vocalist Dave Otto, effectively morphing the jangle stomp of that previous band into a moody garage rock update on music made for 90's mixtape nostalgists.
On 2014's /// EP (that's Triple Slash EP), Otto's layered vocals recall a brattier Billy Corgan fronting one of the more exciting post-Strokes guitar bands of the mid-00s. Standouts “Wrecking Room” and “Shotgun” brood and swagger, rock quiet/loud dynamics, and have killer choruses to boot.
Strange Kids are currently prepping to record their proper debut this summer. If recent live shows are any indicator of the new material, it seems that not only is the band getting better, but is also beginning to grow into it's name.
Listen below to 2014's /// EP standouts “Wrecking Room” and “Shotgun.”
If Jesus Had Machine Guns
photo by Karrie Bulger
Featuring arguably one of the best band names out there, New Haven six-piece If Jesus Had Machines Guns almost tops it with the similarly out-there self description of “dream pop meets Robocop.” All humor aside, IJHMG have been hard at work writing and recording songs for their proper debut. Drawing from decidedly different influences than their more 90s-inspired CT peers, IJHMG's music evokes the moody post-punk and new wave of spiritual predecessors Joy Division, New Order, and Talking Heads but adds their own personal brand of star power.
Recent live shows have been described by the New Haven Register to take “the general dreaminess” of their recorded music and and “kick the energy up about 500 notches.” This is absolutely true, as promising bandcamp demos made by singer / frontman Jimi Patterson are only suggestions of the full bodied, raw energy this sextet displays on stage.
Currently, IJHMG only has three demos available on their bandcamp. Listen below to spacey standout “TONIGHT.”
Being called “CT's answer to Conor Oberst” certainly carries some hefty weight. But while the fresh-off-his-second-year-at-Yale songwriter Chris Capello certainly shares some “Oberstian” qualities: the quavering voice, the insightful lyricism, the not so wide-eyed charm, the point should be made that Chris Cappello knows damn well who Conor Oberst is and is also very much in tune with his own character. After performing for many years under his own name, Cappello has proven himself a songwriter who's ability can stand alone with an acoustic guitar as well as in power pop trio Loner Chic, featuring drummer Brian Grochowski and bassist Peter Stroczkowski (Setsuna, Ex-Breakthrough Frequencies).
Loner Chic's 2014 release, the stylishly lo-fi “Pretty Void” EP, is only 4 songs long, but is loaded with sunny, singalong, major chord melodies that are carried by lyrics which juxtapose classic existential crisis with surviving post-adolescent heartbreak. These are best exemplified in the triumphant rocker “All Natural” and the solo acoustic “Christie”, the latter featuring a somber Cappello in his tiniest voice: “you don't know how hard you broke my fall.” Soon enough, we will. LONER CHIC's upcoming release Year of the Goth will be released on Broken World Media this fall.
Listen below to 2014's lo-fi “Pretty Void” EP
Zanders' 2014 release, been better, was one of the more beloved CT Indie records of the last few years, and rightfully so. Cheekily self-described as “venomous piano pop about fallin' in and out of love with babes all across New England”, the album is loaded with memorable melodies and stream-of-consciousness one liners that resonate with anyone familiar with the human heart.
Since that album's release, classical pianist and principal songwriter Alex Saraceno has been touring and refining new songs with bandmates Kevin O'Donnell and Jason Rule (both of Queen Moo) on bass and drums. Based on the piano-pop description alone, one may not expect the physicality of Zanders' music. These songs are not merely written on piano and supported by an obligatory rhythm section. They are ingrained with dynamic starts and stops, twists and turns, speed ups and slow downs-just like the human heart they sing so virtuously about. Zanders' new album ______________ will be released via Seagreen Records this fall.
Listen below to been better album standout “For Granted”
It doesn't seem possible that the Jon Stone persona that exists on 2014's Freshwater Muscle can co-exist with Jon Stone the painter, carpenter, and overall real-life grown ass man that inhabits New Haven, Connecticut. Listening to Freshwater Muscle, you'll find the strong characterization of a would-be everyman who has been burdened with a poetic nature and a world weary baritone that has found a variety of creative ways to tell the world to get off his back (i.e. “some people aren't afraid to hit a man with glasses / it's a problem when you've got a big mouth / and you need glasses to see).
Despite having a more hard edged punk(ish) rock sound, Blades has described themselves as a “words rock band.” Even while the guitars are in mid-squall, Stone's baritone carries lyrics that are witty, meditative, and poignant. Standouts on the album range from the fist-shaking, self-deprecating rocker “Fuck You Die” to the ruminating acoustic number “2010 Lesbian Party Program.”
Now a four-piece, 10,000 Blades have developed their rock and roll instrumentation and are trying out new songs at shows, ensuring the band is still on track.
Check out the music video below for single “Fuck You Die” below
So the Emo Revival is actually kind of old now, and since the dust has finally begun to settle on the movement, we can more clearly separate the distinct qualities of the innumerable participating bands. Hailing from Trumbull, CT, Cheem does what the best emo revival bands do: take the sonic twinkle of the second wave and focus it with the tight riffage and more defined hooks of post-Bleed American emo. On the 2014 Elka EP, Cheem try out all of the classic characteristics of the genre and show surprising proficiency. These songs sound like they could hold their own next to the many of those late 90s, early 00s groups right before they released their classic albums.
However, on their new “Franklin Badge / Joy Division T-Shirt” single, Cheem have released two of their best songs yet. Opener “Franklin Badge” could serve as a strong album opener to any full length record of that era while b-side “Joy Division T-Shirt” starts with strong vocal hooks and harmonies before escalating into something more danceable. Here's to hoping Cheem add another album's worth of material to follow soon.
Listen below to “Franklin Badge” and “Joy Division T-Shirt”
Jose Oyola & The Astronauts
Jose Oyola likes space. You know, like, outer space. For many artists who aren't David Bowie, this grandiose source of inspiration can be easily overwhelming.
But on 2013 release with his band The Astronauts, titled Give, Give, Give, Take, Take, Take, Jose Oyola takes this extraterrestrial subject matter and ties it down to more tangible human experiences. Songs like “Slave Ant” and “Outside” feature simple vocal harmonies and tasteful minimalism, the former coming off like a brooding break up song on an alien spacecraft while the latter a light and airy lullaby to zero-gravity.
Oyola has been working new album, tentatively titled Hologram, for some time now and is anticipating a Fall 2015 release. Recent reports via-Instagram have indicated Hologram features guest support from members of Zanders, Elison Jackson, and more artists in the CT indie scene, suggesting that the follow up to Give, Take will be even more adventurous.
Listen below to Give, Give, Give, Take, Take, Take, standouts “Slave Ant” and “Outside.”
The Amphibious Man
Just who or what exactly is The Amphibious Man? A mysterious creature that haunts the swamps and cemeteries of Connecticut? Or a mysterious band that haunts the swamps and cemeteries of Connecticut? Okay, it's a band. But the mystique is the same. Like the titular creature which the band embodies, The Amphibious Man has proven elusive. Despite playing a large number of shows and acquiring a solid fanbase around CT and New England, many frequenting audience members can probably hum to you that ominous guitar/vocal riff to one of their most memorable funeral dirges but still can't necessarily describe to you what the music actually sounds like.
Seeing them live evokes a series of questions: Is it lo-fi or just washed out in reverb? Are the inhuman growls natural or produced by vocal effects? Did they just switch drummers? Did I just see another guitarist lurking in the shadows of a live show?
You can perhaps get a taste of The Amphibious Man's sound if you check out their TAKE A SEAT release on Bandcamp, which definitely is lo-fi and definitely is washed out in reverb and definitely is also a series of indistinct, ambient instrumentals that could be played in the background of your favorite long lost cult monster film. Listen below:
The Amphibious Man's proper debut, Witch Hips, will be released on Seagreen Records July 21st
Call It Arson
Way back in the early-2000s when the word “emo” was still a four letter word and the entire genre of indie rock was typically generalized as post-The Strokes guitar rock found at your local Starbucks, Call it Arson described themselves as “heavy folk”, released two (still excellent) albums, played a ton of shows around the state, dabbled with major labels, and promptly dissolved. For many local bands, this is the natural way to go.
But too many hearts had been won over by the music they had made. Following the dissolution of Call it Arson, there always was a grim feeling of unfinished business in the air--a spark had extinguished far too quickly.
Fortunately, in 2010, Call It Arson decided to give things another go. Since their reuniting, the band has released a solid comeback record Between Two Cities and have been more selective in playing shows. This is worked well for CIA, as their energetic live show now feels like a special event for the plethora of fans who have been waiting for a proper new release. Currently in the studio, we should be hearing new material soon.
Listen below to classics from their Self-titled and Animal Strings albums.
The Sleep Cozies
The Sleep Cozies is creative partnership of singers/guitarists Emily Alderman and Thom Hart, who's unique brand of grungy indie rock has proven persistent despite the rotating cast of supporting band members over the years. Tonally, The Sleep Cozies are not necessarily going anywhere that hasn't been visited before by their influences: The Velvet Underground (by way of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Pixies). However, like those bands, The Sleep Cozies have found a way to inject their own personality throughout all the fuzz and cymbal crashes. Rotating vocal duties every other song, Hart and Alderman's melodies are often memorable and distinctly their own. Structurally, most songs are centered around a single hypnotic riff that fluctuates between classic quiet/loud dynamics. Recently, The Sleep Cozies have welcomed back original drummer Tom Shreve and are now preparing to get into the studio to record their first proper release.
The Sleep Cozies only public releases, the lo-fi “Singles” and “Daughter”, hardly reflect their raucous live show, making their upcoming proper debut all the more exciting to think about.
Listen below to a demo of live standout “Daughter”
After a shaky past year or two with the now defunct Ovlov, former frontman Steve Hartlett announced in March that he will be carrying on with new project Stove. According to Hartlett, Stove is essentially the solo continuation of that band, as he “will record all the songs I had written for what would have been the next Ovlov record” and will be “playing everything” on it. If you're not familiar with previous band Ovlov, their 2013 album am updates the sonic template of noise rock titans Dinosaur Jr for a world that now recognizes the proto-emo Pinkerton as one of the best records of the 90s (See am standout “Where's My Dini?”).
Stove’s debut record, titled is Stupider, will be released later this year on Exploding in Sound Records.
Listen / Watch Hartlett perform a new song “Liverwurst” and get informally interviewed below.