(State & Main Records, CD, digital download)
In 2011, Montpelier’s State & Main Records, an offshoot of the Golden Dome Musicians Collective, released a pair of hefty compilation albums, State & Main Records: Volume 1 and Volume 1.5. Together, the comps offered an intriguing, varied and thorough snapshot of a community in flux, with release dates roughly sandwiching the 2011 closing of the city’s fabled arts epicenter, Langdon Street Café. In the years since, the Montpelier scene has weathered more uncertainty — notably, the closing of another cornerstone venue, the Black Door. But optimism abounds in the capital city these days. For starters, a new juke joint, Sweet Melissa’s, is opening soon in the vacated LSC storefront. And venues such as Bagitos, Charlie O’s and Positive Pie 2 have kept the city rocking through the long, dark night. That hopefulness is embodied in a new release from the plucky S&M Records crew, State & Main Records Volume II. The comp’s 14 tracks are evidence of a diverse and vital music scene in central Vermont.
Hip-hop duo BoomSlang open the record with the playful party tune, “You Want It (Come Get It).” DJ JL lays down a frenetic beat while Sed One raps with energetic flair and a nasal tone occasionally reminiscent of Cypress Hill’s B-Real.
Garage-blues duo Lake Superior are next with “Little Bit.” It’s a ragged little cut likely to please fans of the Black Keys and the White Stripes.
The Concrete Rivals check in with “Denim Tiger,” from their excellent 2012 debut, Eat Their Weight in Snakes. The track launches a bruising guitar assault that epitomizes the band’s Dick-Dale-by-way-of-Slayer surf-metal ethos. Anachronist follow with “Say It,” a cut from their excellent 2012 record, Row.
In addition to the more established Montpelier acts it highlights, Volume II features gems from lesser-known artists. One such diamond is a searing alt-rock song called “Happy Endings” courtesy of Murdered Wives. Another is “Fane (stem cells)” by Tiger Grip, a delicately brooding number that suggests Morrissey on an electro-pop bender.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Yacht Rocket’s furious “Death Perception,” 93 seconds of punk slobber punctuated by wordless, punch-drunk howls. It’s a nice complement to Benvelope’s cock-rocking shrieks on “Making & Framing Friends for Murder.”
Dan Zura, one of Montpelier’s — if not Vermont’s — best-kept secrets, offers an album highlight with “My Image.” Warm acoustic picking melts icy distortion and culminates in an ethereal, melancholy ballad. It’s one of the comp’s few softer moments and one of its finest. In a similar vein, Scott Baker’s “Lullabye” is a slice of indie-jangle heaven.
State & Main Records Volume II is available starting Saturday, April 20, at stateandmainrecords.com.