Above: The video for “Sophisticated Thighs” by New Haven electronic group Fake Babies.
After two years of living in the Nutmeg State, it finally hit me: Connecticut is brimming with amazing music.
My hears were open, as it were, at intimate hip hop shows at Cousin Larry’s and Acoustic Cafe (shout out to Enter The Cypher), huge festivals in Bridgeport and Hartford (B.O.M.B. Fest showcased a bevy of local acts) and spirited rock concerts (Daniel Street, you will be missed).
Then, there were the songs and records I blasted, continuously, in my car and at work. Some I discovered through artist interviews; others, through informative publications and simply by chance. Full-length albums and tracks by The Stepkids, Sketch Tha Cataclysm, Echo & Drake, Fake Babies and The Files and Fires dominated my headphones.
Of course, that’s just a tiny slice of what Connecticut has to offer. Even in such a small state, it’s hard to take in the breadth of the entire scene. But for the sake of sharing great music — music made right here, in our own backyard — the following is a selection of my favorite songs and records of 2011 by Connecticut artists.
(Songs are below; albums will be published tomorrow).
My favorite song of the year from New Haven’s self-proclaimed “dirty soul” outfit is a piece of post-industrial electronic sludge dripping with jittery breakbeats, minimal piano stabs and screeching guitars. I’m not sure what these guys are singing about, but “I keep my books in the sink” has to be one of the most imaginative lyrics of 2011.
The first single from the Waterbury emcee’s excellent “Indie Rappers Do it For Gas Money, Vol. 2″ exemplifies the record’s earnest (and at times, humorously self-effacing) portrait of a struggling indie rapper. Soul-inspired and catchy, the song has the potential to breach the mainstream.
This hypnotic, slow-striding, psychedelic funk song from the Bridgeport rock trio is all about taking yourself way too seriously. And with good reason: to make it in the music industry, guitarist Jeff Gitelman, told me, you have to think of yourself in a legendary light. It may be working, as the Stepkids signed to Stones Throw Records this year.
This pop-infused modern folk tune by the band of Purchase (N.Y.) College alums and part-time Connecticut residents is carried along by a warm guitar melody, soaring harmonica and the heartfelt lyrics of singers Kari Spieler and Adam McHeffey. It’s fun, upbeat and leaves you all warm and fuzzy.
The veteran Bridgeport rockers blew the top off the state’s music scene once again in 2011 with this track, a raw, noisy, hard rock number surging with screaming guitars, crushing drums and the powerhouse croon of frontwoman Meredith DiMenna. It’s a post-apocalyptic anthem well-suited for New Year’s Eve parties.
The first single from “The Tex Wattsun Chronic-als” features the Norwalk emcee’s gravelly voice and jackhammer flow coupled with a crunching guitar loop and shotgun beats. It’s a tribute of sorts to the state’s hardcore scene, from which the rapper, who once fronted punk and rap metal bands, traces his roots.
The first single from the Bridgeport songstress combines bouncy, soul-inspired production with Kane’s evocative croon and unshakable message of love. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of R&B, but this song is really infectious. Don’t be surprised if the singer, who has already been featured on VH1, blows up next year.
A hazy chugging guitar line is the conduit for David Van Witt’s deep dark thoughts. “When I drink, I think about how many people I can rip from their limbs,” he sings. It’s a little unnerving, but everyone can relate to having those weird violent urges — especially after you throw back a couple shots of Jameson.
It’s not easy to make someone fall in love with you. Sometimes, you have to keep him or her tied up in your basement. The first single from the New Haven indie rock quartet’s magnificent record, “Love Buttons,” imagines just that scenario, juxtaposing a warm guitar melody with fuzzy breakdowns and a frantic, call and response chorus.
The first single off the Hartford duo’s superlative “Sundrenched Elsewhere” combines the majesty of Oasis-esque britpop with the groove of modern post punk. There’s a bittersweet love story, too. “Hold my tongue or just bite it off, I know it’s all the same to you,” Jon Ericson sings, delivering one of the most gripping love lyrics of the year.
I also liked:
The Guru – “Beach Monster”
Metamusick featuring BC Connect, Duece Bug, Holy Smokes, Pressure Zero, One Sotorios, Chuck Nickels and Weezer Rascal – “Warbound”
Mates of State – “Palomino”
Mystic Bowie – “Free”
P.J. Pacifico – “Lake Shore Drive”
EULA – “Texas Stampede”
Bori Puro featuring Sose and Tut Diggz – “I Represent the City”
Apathy Featuring Celph Titled – “Stop What Ya Doin”
Angelica Salem – “We Rock The World”
Dirt E. Dutch Featuring Pruven – “Reflect”