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Quick Hits on Overlooked Vermont Albums From 2018

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Seven Days receives more book submissions than our staff writers can read and fully review. So, every month or so, we publish Page 32, a collection of short takes on books by Vermont-based authors that include a quote from, well, page 32. Though that page number is admittedly arbitrary, the micro-review gives readers an idea of what to expect from the work as a whole.

The 7D music desk has a similar problem: We receive an overabundance of album submissions. In fact, our logjam currently stretches back to last year. So, why not apply the same quick-hit principle to music as we do books? Instead of page 32, though, the focus of the following snapshots is each album's second track.

There's a method to the seeming madness. If a record's first song is designed to introduce the album or immediately hook the listener, an album's second track has an arguably more difficult job: to keep the listener listening. Hence, track two might be a reasonable barometer of what the album has in store.

Read on for a brief taste of local releases that slipped through the cracks in 2018.

Dokowala, "Shlo Motion"

Cold Waves - First Volume

Airy flute loops and spiked 808 snares outfit this 90-second found-sound concoction. Its jazzy, dreamlike vibes recall the sample-heavy DJ culture popular at the turn of the century. Cold Waves - First Volume is but one entry in Dokowala's ever-growing catalog. Real name Alex Robtoy, the St. Albans native is cranking out instrumental hip-hop like nobody's business.


Jason Baker, "A Locally Specific Blues"

America Dreams

Messaging in music can be tricky to pull off. You can do it subtly, or you can do it the Jason Baker way. The Queen City singer-songwriter, known for leading the Burlington Songwriters collective, clumsily jabs at President Donald Trump, systemic oppression and outrage culture in this rote acoustic ditty. Strangely, there's nothing "locally specific" about any of Baker's grievances.


Binger, "Memory.Exe"

Already Here

Rhymesmiths Braden Winslow and Shakir Stephen of NYC/Burlington-based trio Binger ponder technology's effect on the psyche in this bubbly funk-hop tune. The track shows that Binger's strength lies in the group's balance between eloquent bars and groove-centric instrumentation. An added bonus: JUPTR/smalltalker front person Steph Wilson (née Heaghney) contributes striking background vocals.


Suburban Samurai, "This Town"

Short But Not Short Enough

At two minutes and 41 seconds, "This Town" is the longest song on the most recent EP from Burlington melodic punk group Suburban Samurai. Though comparing such a group to Green Day might be as lazy as likening a weary acoustic folk singer to Bob Dylan, the Dookie-era energy here is undeniable. Think big major chords and breakneck drumming. Plus, singer Cody Delphia just sounds a whole lot like Billie Joe Armstrong.


Sten Bowen, "I'm Awake (Wait)"

The Farthest Sun

Seldom-seen Reading-based singer-songwriter Sten Bowen isn't one to bask in the spotlight — though his stellar piano chops certainly make him deserving. "I'm Awake" opens with courtly neoclassical keys before starkly transitioning into a soul-searching ballad. It's vaguely reminiscent of Brian Wilson's more elegiac tunes from his masterpiece Smile — but with an overtly Christian bent.


Jesse Taylor, "Like What You See"

80° in October

In only a few words, Burlington-by-way-of Gray, Maine, singer-songwriter Jesse Taylor asks existential questions in the country-flavored pop tune "Like What You See." Ultra-crisp production adds a sense of clarity to a song that deals with the crushing unknowingness of others, and the self.


Adrian Carr, "Blue Is the Warmest Color"

Otoseo: On the Other Side of Everything

Plattsburgh-based new-age pianist Adrian Carr's "Blue Is the Warmest Color" could score the climactic final scene in an art-house tearjerker. Full of dread and longing, the instrumental piece pairs the composer's lilting piano work with cinematic cello and violin. The University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh professor precisely and effectively pushes the emotional envelope.


Aaron Marcus, "Waiting For Phyllis"

Men Don't Cry

A duet of piano and cello, "Waiting For Phyllis" is a lonely piece from contra-dance band Frost and Fire's Aaron Marcus. The album, Men Don't Cry, won the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus' 2018 Tammie Award for Best Traditional Album — though this particular track sounds fairly modern. Marcus may be known for whipping revelers into spirited frenzies with Frost and Fire, but this emotive cut shows a wide breadth of depth in his solo work.


Pinedrop, "Just a Few More Days"

Four

Interplay between Derek Sensale's agreeable vocals and Charlie Peckar's snappy violin keep this mid-tempo folk tune moving forward. The unpretentious Brattleboro four-piece Pinedrop has the small-town charm you'd expect of a northern Americana quartet, a quality heard particularly in the EP's intimate production values.


Revibe, "Labyrinth"

I Am the Sea and You Are the Sky

Aptly named 14-minute odyssey "Labyrinth" is a mazelike, instrumental exploration of sounds and styles. The Burlington-based progressive fusionists noodle through a freewheeling first movement only to arrive at a glittery, house-tinged midpoint glowing with arpeggiated synths. Like Disco Biscuits or Brothers Past, Revibe bridge the gap between the mud-streaked fields of a jam festival parking lot and the light-speckled walls of a dance club.


Gahlord Dewald, "Fenestration"

Arousing // Fenestration

Not for the easily perturbed, Burlington experimental music czar Gahlord Dewald's massive sound exploration "Fenestration" is a grinding survey of alien textures. An exercise in no-input mixing, everything heard is a result of feedback manipulation sent through layers of processing. Pulsing, fizzing, skipping, scratching, screaming, dying — the track teems with emotionally charged sonic language.


Julian Gerstin Sextet, "Jugo de Mambo"

The Old City

Inspired by crossroad cities such as San Francisco, Athens and Bogotá, Gerstin's sextet travels the globe, more than once stopping off near the equator. Tropical breezes course through "Jugo de Mambo" — or "Mambo Juice" in English. Traditional piano riffs ascend and descend over sassy horns. Jubilant flute, stinging bass and a full percussion section converge in this shoulder-shimmying dance number.


The Wormdogs, "Warm When Wet"

Doggin Is My Business

At first, the Wormdogs' "Warm When Wet" sounds like a fairly traditional bluegrass ditty with its quickened pickin' and motley group vocals. But as it progresses, it reaches a psychedelic breakdown — which makes sense, given that auteur Ryan Power had a hand in its production. The track was originally written for Squimley and the Woolens, another local band that shares members with the Wormdogs.


Radio Underground, "Hold On"

Dark and Getting Darker

Dripping with classic-rock and '90s post-grunge overtones, Radio Underground's "Hold On" is a dramatic and evocative power ballad. Known for his work with Bardela and several local radio stations, singer Arty LaVigne's voice wavers with the spirited humanity of David Byrne and the broken-down pathos of late-era Johnny Cash.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Track Two | Quick hits on overlooked Vermont albums from 2018"

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