What a year for album submissions! In 2021, Vermont's musicians were flinging records at Seven Days like a bunch of psychopaths with Frisbees. Your friendly neighborhood music editor caught as many as possible, but as the year winds down, we look at some he (almost!) missed, including the following six submissions.
Dave Richardson, Palms to Pines
(Self-released, CD, digital)
Windsor's Dave Richardson makes folk music for the 21st century. While the singer-songwriter's catalog bears all the hallmarks of the genre, his style and candid writing transcend folk tropes. Take "Apology to Mouse (Recently Deceased)," for instance. Full of delicately plucked acoustic guitar and soft fiddle, the earnest track finds Richardson grappling with the regret of killing a mouse in his house. "A fellow makes his home as a fortress to protect at all costs / And when that boundary is crossed / The instinct to defend kicks in," he sings by way of explanation to the dead rodent.
Richardson cut Palms to Pines at Dimension Sound Studios with Dan Cardinal, who has produced records for Josh Ritter and Darlingside. It's a good match, with Cardinal helping Richardson craft a folk record filled with whimsical reflections and clever love songs.
Key Track: "Love for Love." Why: Richardson takes the lyrics of a traditional ballad and creates a gorgeous ode to unrequited love. Where: dave-richardson.bandcamp.com.
Flywlkr and Gingervitus, Odyssey
If you like your hip-hop new wave'd out, Odyssey, the first foray from Flywlkr and Gingervitus, is for you. Though tantalizingly brief at just three tracks, the EP is a strong statement from the Burlington duo. "Cloud Boys" establishes the vibe with a glitchy beat, melodic synth work and the two MC-vocalists trading verses. In keeping with a lot of Gen Y hip-hop, the vocals are drenched in auto-tune, but the production is tastefully reserved. Flywlkr and Gingervitus display easy chemistry in songs focused on establishing a flow, both lyrically and rhythmically.
Key Track: "6am." Why: It's a first-world-problems banger, with lyrics such as "All these blunts keep burning my throat / But I keep on smoking cos' it's all that I know." Where: Spotify, Apple Music.
Ari Joshua, RAAR EP
(Music Factory Records, digital)
South African-born guitarist and songwriter Ari Joshua spent much of his youth learning to play in Seattle, Wash. He studied at the New School in New York City before eventually returning to Seattle to found the Music Factory, an online and in-person music instruction company.
With his new RAAR EP, Joshua has made a decidedly Vermont record, however. After linking up with Soule Monde and Trey Anastasio Band members Ray Paczkowski and Russ Lawton, Joshua decided to fly out to visit the Tank Recording Studio in Burlington. The trio came away with six tracks of jazz, psychedelic rock and funk jams. The interplay between Paczkowski on keys and Lawton on drums is as telepathic as ever, while Joshua's guitar work weaves between them in a sort of dance. It's easy to see why the band wowed the Phish crowd back in October when it debuted at the afterparty for the Vermont foursome's Las Vegas shows.
Key Track: "Star Lord." Why: While Paczkowski locks his organ into a groove with Lawton, Joshua drops lick after lick of jazz-infused guitar solos. Where: arijoshua.com.
Jim Yeager, The Lonely Monkey
I love a good "lost" album. Woodstock's Jim Yeager is a prolific singer-songwriter with multiple records under his belt, including 2020's hard-rocking Identity Crisis. On The Lonely Monkey, Yeager shows his softer side with a previously unreleased, largely acoustic EP. Originally recorded in 2001 in Philadelphia, the six-song collection is an all-ballads affair. In that more subdued setting, Yeager's voice shows a surprisingly romantic bent, especially on tracks such as "Lonely in Heaven."
His acoustic work is still clearly rock music, but on the gentler end of the spectrum. Listening to a record made two decades ago provides insight into a musician's progression, but The Lonely Monkey demonstrates that Yeager has long been an engaging songwriter.
Key Track: "The Messenger." Why: Yeager's voice is resonant in a song that threatens to go full power ballad but stays reined in. Where: jimyeager.bandcamp.com.
Multiple Me, Plastic People in Outer Space
The best way to categorize a band like Multiple Me might be to call it ADD rock. The local alt-rock trio channels a host of influences on its third record, Plastic People in Outer Space. Opening track "The Way You Move" leaps out like a cross between the tongue-in-cheek metal of the Darkness and stoned-out pop punk. The title track shades closer to '80s new-wave anthems, and "Molecular Disco" pulls hard from '90s arena-rock source material.
The variance in styles scarcely interrupts the flow or glorious weirdness of the record. With instrumental aplomb and clever lyrics, Multiple Me never let the energy ebb over 13 tracks. For a band that describes itself as "just three dudes from Vermont who like playing music," Multiple Me have a lot going on, both on and under the surface.
Key Track: "If You Were Mine." Why: The band goes full U2, swinging for the fences with echo-laden guitars and soaring vocals. Where: Spotify and Apple Music.
The Michele Fay Band, Zucchini Days
(Self-released, CD, digital)
The fifth record from the Michele Fay Band, Zucchini Days, finds the Ripton Americana act playing to its strengths. As they did on 2015's Believe, the MFB present a tight, traditional-leaning set that moves through Appalachian folk, swing and bluegrass. Fay has a keen melodic sense and an evocative voice that rarely goes for bombast. Her backing band is a well-drilled unit: Tim Price on guitar and mandolin, Mike Santosusso on bass, Kalev Freeman and Freeman Corey on fiddle, and multi-instrumentalist Colin McCaffrey (who also engineered and mixed Zucchini Days). The group has been making records since 2007, and the players' comfort level is apparent on the breezy, pleasantly anachronistic songs. Without a doubt, the MFB have dialed in exactly how they want to sound. That sort of consistency, paired with solid songwriting, establishes Zucchini Days as the band's best offering to date.
Key Track: "By the Otter Creek." Why: Fay's voice shines as she sings of mountain waters and northern geese. Where: michelefayband.com.