After performing at the Otis Mountain Get Down in Elizabethtown, N.Y., last September, holding a residency at Manhattan Pizza & Pub this April, and regular gigs at Nectar's and Club Metronome, Burlington favorites the Bumping Jones have had plenty of exposure in the lead up to their debut full-length record. The band has even left the Queen City to spread the good word, landing a February show at Fontana's in New York City's Lower East Side. Their new album, Playgrounds, a follow-up to a pair of earlier EPs, delivers more of what those who have caught them live likely want: feel-good, infectious rhythms.
The band wisely opens the album with danceable, "let's-boogie" sounds on the breezy funk tunes "Synesthesia" and "Ellipsis." The latter cut, while certainly fun, is also an ideal track for the bittersweet feeling of changing times. Graduating college seniors might find comfort in lead vocalist Shawn Connolly's musings as he sings, "I feel like I'm running for something that's approaching anyway," and later, "I'm no fortune teller but baby I can tell what I'm in for."
The pep slows down just a bit with the fourth track, "Wrapped Up," where trumpeter Katie Richter shines on vocals with a low, strong voice that complements the rise and fall of the jangly sax.
The album's strength is in the music itself, while lyrics generally take a back seat. The animated and friendly rivalry among the band's talented players — guitarist Ben Chussid, drummer Eric Fanning, bassist Zach Zimmerman, and trumpet and sax man Reuben Jalbert — works well, creating a call-and-response sound that feels new with every listen. Standout tracks include "&mpersand," a sprawling, eight-minute number with plenty of back-and-forth instrumentals; "Catacombs," a psychedelic headbanger that will call you to the dance floor; and the closer, "On Rewind," which allows Connolly to wind down the energy long enough for listeners to refill their drinks and perhaps, as the song title suggests, play it again. The only moment that causes some pause is the title track. With a fiery, almost angry opening fit for driving in the fast lane, it's a noticeable departure from the easygoing vibe of the other tunes.
The final verdict? At a quick eight tracks, Playgrounds by the Bumping Jones is just downright fun. Listen to it when throwing open your windows to welcome spring, having a barbecue with friends or shaking off a bad mood.
The Bumping Jones play an album-release party this Saturday, May 17, at Nectar's in Burlington. Playgrounds is available at thebumpingjones.bandcamp.com.