So many records, so little time. Seven Days gets more album submissions than we know what to do with. And, given the ease of record making these days, it's difficult to keep up. Still, we try to get to every local release that comes across the music desk, no matter how obscure or far out.
To that end, here are four releases that likely flew under the radar of your average local music fan. In some cases, they represent the outermost boundaries of local music. Others simply slipped through the cracks. But each is worth a listen.
(Vermont POP Records, YouTube)
You know how you were just telling your friends that you wished Burlington had its own pop summer anthem? Something that might do for Queen City dog days what YouTube sensation Rebecca Black did for Friday? No? Well, you've got one anyway. You can thank the offbeat local pop-music boutique Vermont POP. Or you can curse the studio, depending on how quickly Queen Louisa's earwormy YouTube single, "Girlington Summer Luv," irretrievably burrows its way into your cortex.
Vermont POP is the studio of local musical oddball Derek Pinkham, who has previously released music under the name Jack Chicago. In recent years, he's turned his attention to crafting radio-ready dance-pop singles for would-be sensations from Vermont and beyond. "Girlington Summer Luv" is a grade-A example of VP's output, for good and bad.
For starters, it is immaculately produced. Pinkham is an unusual fella, but he knows his way around a mixing console. You'd be hard pressed to discern any significant difference in sonic sheen between "Girlington Summer Luv" and countless other pop singles that dominate airwaves, McDonald's commercials and Spotify playlists. It's also pretty mindless, vapid stuff, which actually might be a bad thing.
The closest stylistic corollary one could make to Queen Louisa's single is likely Black's 2011 smash "Friday." Catchy as hell, it's hard to forget once you've heard it. And I defy you not to sing along when Louisa hits her fist-pumping hook: "Gimme fun / Kiss me in the sun (Whoa-oh) / Girlington, Girlington summer luv."
(Self-released, cassette, digital download)
For several years now, upstate New York's Justin Passino has been writing, recording and releasing punchy, lo-fi acoustic bedroom demos — first as For the Kid in the Back and more recently under the pseudonym Pretty Lousy. That Which Has Wrought Great Anxiety is his fourth release under the latter name. And it's inarguably his best.
As both his stage name and the album's title suggest, Passino writes with a knowing sense of self-deprecation. His songs are fidgety examinations of anxiety and nervousness couched in urgent acoustic compositions that owe a debt to the likes of ragged indie icons Neutral Milk Hotel and the Mountain Goats. But he's equally influenced, or bummed out, by emo acts such as Dashboard Confessional, which makes for a curious but often compelling union of sounds.
While Passino's bread and butter is emotional insecurity, the new tape crackles with confidence — and also tape crackles. He might be a mess on the inside, but outwardly he portrays his perceived failings with charm, wit and newfound fortitude. It's a signature work from a young artist truly catching his stride.
Bostjan Zupancic: MicroMetal is the brainchild of St. Johnsbury guitarist, vocalist and composer Russ Hayes. According to Hayes, the project utilizes a new tuning called 19-EDO, which uses 19 notes instead of the traditional 12-note scale found in Western music. Hayes' debut album as BZM, Vol. 1, presents the findings from that experiment. And the results are inconclusive.
The alternate/expanded tuning is undoubtedly cool, especially for theory geeks, of which there are many in the realm of metaldom. But it's tough to know how many laypeople might find the work as fascinating as their shred-happy counterparts. The extra seven notes in the 19-EDO scale are essentially quartertones — or microtones, hence "MicroMetal." Those are quite common in Eastern music, but they tend to grate onWestern ears, which hear microtones as off pitch.
Hayes is a monster player and a convincing metal acolyte. But a lot of the time, especially in the album's most ripping, note-packed moments, it kinda sounds as though someone is messing with the intonation settings in ProTools. Vol. I introduces a fascinating concept. It just might need more time in the lab before it's ready for public consumption.
(Self-released, digital download)
Earlier this year, local DJ and rapper BP — aka Ryan Morin — died unexpectedly. His passing shook the local hip-hop community to its core. It also deprived the Burlington area of a phenomenally gifted DJ and increasingly talented MC. UnKommon, his project with rapper and childhood friend Kin, released their latest proper album, Back in the Building, in the days following Morin's death. It was a very good local hip-hop record and a bittersweet testament to how hard Morin had worked on his flow.
In June, Kin unearthed more of BP's rhymes on R.A.M. (Rhymes and Memories) — the acronym also represents Ryan Anthony Morin's initials. Collaborating with DJ Skruff, Kin compiled a sort of "greatest hits" mixtape, showcasing some of the late rapper's best bars, set to new production. Like Back in the Building, the collection is both impressive for the depth of Morin's performance and depressing, as it serves as a sobering reminder of what BP might have become.