It’s been roughly five years since Burlington’s 2nd Agenda released their debut album, Connect. Though critical response was lukewarm at best, the group pressed on undeterred and have become something of a scene cornerstone — even if they are somewhat overlooked in the current flood of indier-than-thou mania. Thanks largely to the yeoman-like efforts of songwriter and bandleader Andy Lugo, their long-awaited follow-up, Take Cover, is a reminder that the Queen City has more to offer than skinny jeans and jangly guitars.
A slinky reggae groove introduces album opener “Bob Lives” — guess which Bob they’re referring to? Lugo and DJ Transplante deliver a sort of alternative hip-hop call and response, with the turntablist answering each of the singer’s high-minded exhortations with well-placed cuts and scratches. Backing vocalist Yas Gordon matches Lugo’s laid-back melodic flow with a smooth, impassioned delivery of her own.
“Might Az Well” follows in a similar stylistic vein. Over another lazily lilting reggae cadence, Lugo unleashes some nifty acoustic runs, giving the tune a rootsier feel than the previous track had. That is, until a rockin’ electric guitar solo kicks in after a slowly simmering bridge. The effect is surprisingly intense, jerking the tune out of its rastafied amble.
2nd Agenda trades largely in higher-conscious fare, and the most overt example rears its lionized head on “The Kost.” Though well intentioned, such morally righteous discourse can be risky lyrical fodder. Namely, because there’s a slim margin of error between “thought provoking” and “dogmatic regurgitation.” While Lugo doesn’t offer many mind-blowing poetic nuggets, he is refreshingly non-preachy. The heartfelt quality in his vocal delivery suggests he’s not the shepherd so much as just another member of the flock. But he gets his point across.
Next up, “Transmission” marks a significant stylistic leap into more straight-ahead rock musings. With guitars blazing, Lugo is something of a cross between Everlast and Peter Gabriel. That may seem an odd combination, but it works, especially during the acoustic breaks.
“Common Folk” closes the album with the disc’s most certifiably hip-hop-styled track. Lugo and Transplante share MC duties and prove a potent duo — although there are a couple of uncomfortable moments strangely reminiscent of Weird Al Yankovic’s Coolio parody, “Amish Paradise.” Occasional stilted flow aside, it’s a solid curtain call.
Take Cover isn’t a perfect album. Then again, few are. But 2nd Agenda’s sophomore effort should be a welcome addition to Burlington’s increasingly vibrant higher-conscious music scene.
Catch the band live at The Monkey House in Winooski this Thursday, April 2.