File Under "?"
Six local albums you probably haven't heard
So many records, so little time.
Seven Days gets more album submissions than we know what to do with. And, especially given the ease of record making these days, it’s growing increasingly difficult to keep up with the flood of review requests. There is only so much time in the day, or space in the paper. Still, we try to get to every local album that comes across the music desk, no matter how obscure.
To that end, here are six albums that likely flew under the radar screens of most Vermont music fans. We say that with some confidence, as they mostly flew under ours, too. In some cases, the recordings represent the outermost boundaries of local music. Others simply slipped the through cracks. Either way, each deserves a listen.
Luke Chrisinger, Soul Sleep December
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Luke Chrisinger’s latest, Soul Sleep December, came to us on a burned CD with a folded piece of paper as its sleeve. The only thing resembling liner notes were a few related web addresses typed inside. There are no track listings, credits or distinguishing marks of any kind. Nor does iTunes recognize the album’s 20 tracks. The record is a complete mystery, and one that only deepens amid Chrisinger’s bleak swirl of shoegaze-y indie compositions.
As it turns out, Chrisinger, who is also somehow related to the What Doth Life crew in the Upper Valley, is beyond prolific. This record is one of 45 he has available through his Bandcamp page dating back to at least 2008 — many of which are full length.
Derek & the Demons, Derek & the Demons
(What Doth Life, CD, digital download)
Yet another release from Upper Valley imprint What Doth Life, the self-titled debut from Derek & the Demons is a curious mix of blues-rock and classic rock. While stylistically less consistent with the generally more punk and indie fare of WDL’s catalog, the record is an intriguing addition to an increasingly intriguing local label.
Lawrence Welks & Our Bear to Cross, Take Me to Love
Take Me to Love by Lawrence Welks & Our Bear to Cross is a seven-inch vinyl follow-up to last year’s Judgment EP, the latter composed of five psalms set to music and one hymn reimagined through Welks’ singularly unhinged post-trash-pop ethos. Setting aside righteous religious derangement to tackle another pressing and controversial mystery, love, LW&OB2X achieve something startling: a pair of love songs that is actually, and perhaps even genuinely, sweet.
Oh! Betty, I’m Still Standin’
(Self-released , CD)
Oh! Betty first came to our attention a couple of years ago, when they released “Martha Stewart Christmas,” a humorous holiday carol that became a (very) minor YouTube hit. Now the Plattsburgh-based duo is back with a new EP, I’m Still Standin’. The five-song sampler reveals a similarly offbeat bent as on “Martha” — which is included here, BTW. On the whole, it’s a little hokey. But it’s hard not to be charmed by the pair’s down-home take on blues and rockabilly and songwriter Julie Canepa’s entertaining style. Like, for example, “State of Emergency,” a cheeky tale of love repeatedly gone wrong and the men responsible, that ends with — wait for it — a lesbian wedding in Vermont.
Tony Hill, Asunder
(Self-released , CD)
In 2010, Vermont songwriter Tony Hill released one of the more confounding albums in recent memory, And the Low End of High Art. On one hand, much of the record boasted a pleasantly harried immediacy, likely the result of having been written and recorded essentially in one session. But that rushed process also resulted in an inconsistent effort overall, with a clunker (or two) for every gem. Recorded with his Northeast Kingdom pals, Ryan Arthur, Brandon Rainer and Dan O’Day, Asunder is a markedly stronger and more even effort; it takes advantage of Hill’s unique, blue-collar songwriting style and the relaxed atmosphere that made High Art so promising.
Jake Lions Band, Almost Worth Selling
(Self released, CD)
Jake Lions — Hyde Park, Vermont’s answer to Dr. Demento, or James Kochalka — returns with Almost Worth Selling. It’s a follow-up to his impossibly geeky 2010 greatest hits record, Lions’ Best Vol. 2. This time around, Lion peers even further down the rabbit hole, delivering a suite of epic instrumental synth-pop compositions that sound something like an alternate soundtrack to the original eight-bit Nintendo game Legend of Zelda.
For those who prefer their nerd rock less chippy and more laden with geeky attitude, JLB also recently released Ghost Hair (It’s Still There), which is a slightly more conventional album. Or at least as conventional as a record with songs such as “TV Time Is Murder Time,” “The Mystery of the Disappearing Carrots” and “Scrap Papers Society” can be.