A Decade of CT Music: 2013

The original idea for this crazy project was to turn it into a book. I quickly realized that was going to be way more work than I wanted to take on right now so instead you’re stuck with this 10-part blog post. There are two records in particular that popped into my head one day that triggered my desire to explore the last ten years of Connecticut music. Both of those records were released in 2013. After I compiled all the albums I wanted to include in this project. I looked back and honestly felt that this was easily one of the strongest years in CT music in the 2010s. There were stellar debuts, exceptional follow-ups, some truly beastly heavy records, and a bunch of albums released by some long-running and highly decorated members of our scene. Buckle up. 2013 was clearly a wilder ride than I remembered it being.


1974 – 1974 & The Death Of The Herald
What would this spacey prog rock troupe do for an encore after their phenomenal debut? Oh, nothing…except pen what stands are arguably their best and most ambitious album to date. This band could get heavy as a hammer striking iron, as progressive as a robot listening to Rush albums, and as catchy as the best pop hooks you could dig up. The whole package was tucked into this crazy concept album that I’m convinced virtually no other band in the scene could pull off the way these guys did. This album is a masterwork of prog rock and a must listen for anyone who likes their rock ‘n’ roll the size of massive arenas filled with 10,000 long-haired nerds.


Bedroom Rehab Corporation – Red Over Red
I’ve listened to this record a hundred times, I’ve seen them play live dozens of times, and I still can’t figure out how a bass-and-drums two-piece could be as heavy as New London’s Bedroom Rehab Corporation. This duo just flat out steamrolls everything in their way. Their doom-laden take on stoner rock was an absolute breath of fresh air and this record still stands as one of my favorite heavy albums CT produced this decade. “Gone By The Boards” is still my jam and whenever I hear it I get this weird urge to smash as much shit as possible. My only complaint is that after this record they’d put out one EP and then pretty much vanish. Not a fan of that at all. More music, please and thank you.


Daphne Lee Martin – Moxie
This is the album that saw Americana stalwart Daphne Lee Martin make a left turn and head down a path that was nothing short of adventurous. Gone was her ‘Raise The Rent’ backing band, traded in for indie aesthetics and a distinctly soulful atmosphere. Picture something a little bluesy and a little folksy but filtered through this acid and whiskey-soaked kaleidoscope and you might get a close approximation to what Martin was going for here.


James Maple – American Dreams
I can’t remember if 2013 was the year that James Maple shocked a lot of people by winning three CT Music Awards, but I’ll damned if he didn’t deserve every one of those goofy trophies. This guy has more soul and more talent in his pinky than most and he clearly poured absolutely everything he had into this album. It shows. It’s a beautiful collection of stories told in a countrified manner, yet you certainly don’t have to be a country fan to fall in love with them. I was first turned on to Maple’s work when he was fronting the exceptional GraveRobbers (I still have my GraveRobbers t-shirt.) and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Maple is at his best here when the songs are slow and sorrowful, and tracks like “Mount Morris” will stick with you for a long time. His performance of that song at those CT Music Awards still stands as one of the best musical moments I’ve ever witnessed live. I know Maple has spent a lot of time backing other musicians (and outfitting a lot more in handmade guitar straps) but there has to be another James Maple record out there somewhere waiting to be made. There just has to be.


Jose Oyola – Give, Give, Give, Take, Take, Take
Debut album from New Haven-by-way-of-Hartford (but now based in Brooklyn) indie pop artist Jose Oyola. Mixing Latin music elements into his brand of indie, Oyola wrote catchy yet heartfelt tunes that really left an impression from the very first listen. “Struve (Born In The City)” was one of my favorite tracks of the year and may have contained the most infectious chorus of any track released in 2013.


Sea of Bones – The Earth Wants Us Dead
Easily one of my favorite metal albums of the last decade. Sea of Bones write this absolutely epic brand of atmospheric sludge/doom/crust that is second to none. Here’s a fun fact: I once attempted to break a Guinness World Record with a track from this album and they wound up being the only band to ever have their own episode of Chip’s Unnamed Local Band Show. We interviewed them and then filmed them playing the track “Failure of Light” live in their basement/rehearsal space. I took that 13+ minute song and made a music video out of it, aired it in its entirety making it the longest, unedited music video ever aired on one of the five major network TV stations (WCCT, a CW affiliate) in the U.S. The Guinness people refused to replace Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, which only ever aired in its entirety on MTV – a cable network. I’m still salty and calling total bullshit on this. Anyway, this album is one of the heaviest and nastiest records you’ll find during this exercise. You’ve been warned.


Seth Adam – Steel Tempered Pride
Seth Adam has had a long and productive career and has released some exceptional music since this album. But if pressed to pick a personal favorite, it would be this one. There’s a ton of twang on this record that Adam weaves into his brand of folksy Americana. Another record where you don’t have to be a country music fan, but it sure doesn’t hurt either. I still love hearing him pull out some of these songs in the live setting. They just never get old.


Violent Mae – Violent Mae
Another CT-based blog that I admire recently posted a meme about end-of-decade lists and basically called out any that would dare leave Violent Mae off their list. I’m in 1000% agreement with this sentiment. I had never heard Becky Kessler when I booked her to perform on one of the earliest episodes of Live and Local. She was recommended by a mutual friend and I was in a pinch to replace the opener who had to back out. She showed up late, this tiny young lady with the big electric guitar, arriving at the venue just before her scheduled set time. She plugged in, started playing, and my life has never been the same since. When it came time to record her debut album she chose Floyd Kellogg to produce, they hit it off, and formed Violent Mae pretty quickly. What started as Becky’s debut album became Violent Mae’s debut and now none of us have been the same since. I remember John Dankosky, then of WNPR, saying to me once, “They just have it, don’t they?” Abso-fucking-lutely they had it and this album is Exhibit A. Forget the decade, forget the genre, forget the geographic location, this is one of my all-time favorite records. Come back to us Violent Mae. Please.


Atrina – In Planetary Sugar
So you probably figured out what the first of two records was that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. This would be the other. Damn, I love(d) this record. A lot. Here’s what I wrote in a review, that the band graciously has up on their Bandcamp page: “An absolutely stunning album in just about every way imaginable…the perfect musical example of the universal struggle of the light versus the darkness. It is the sun both rising and setting in an aural battle of the bombastic versus the placid.” I still like that sentiment, and it’s still perfectly fitting. This is another in a long line of bands this decade that would put out their masterwork and then never record again. I keep hearing these rumblings and rumors that Atrina may be getting back together, may be practicing, may be writing. Everyone stop toying with my emotions. One of the decades most underrated albums from one of CT’s most underrated bands. An album heavy and dark enough for metalheads to get into yet gorgeous enough for everyone else to get behind.


Branchwater – When The World Seems Cold
This was a band that came out of absolute left field for me, and proceeded to knock me right on my ass in the best way possible. They were bluesy, they were funky, and they could get heavy as holy hell, especially in the live setting. They could write these killer riffs, had enough jam to them to survive that scene, and had just the right tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Honestly, as much as I loved this record I wish I had spent more time with them when they were still around. I think I only booked one show for them (at Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford as part of the Advocate’s Grand Band Slam) and that’s a damn shame. I hope wherever these dudes wound up they are all still rocking out as hard as they were in 2013.


Elison Jackson – Do Not Fear To Kill A Dead Man
This band had a helluva run during the first half of the decade. 2011 gave us their exceptional debut, they followed that up in 2012 with an EP featuring some of their best work, and then in 2013 hit us with their follow up full-length. It would not be an understatement to call it something of a magical run at the end of the day. This album saw them expand their sound into more indie folk and psych folk territory with splendid results. When I tell you that the song “2009” is one of my most favorite tracks of the decade there is zero exaggeration there. I could listen to that track in particular on repeat all day long.


Lys Guillorn – Winged Victory
Another artist who has become a pillar of indie music in Connecticut over the years. Lys Guillorn has made a lot of great music, but again, if pressed on which release is my personal favorite it would be this one. Lys is a master storyteller and the music on this release runs the gamut from indie folk to blues to trippy Americana. She’s able to weave various genres together in ways that shouldn’t make sense yet it most certainly does. I love it and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this album for the first time in too long.


Paper Hill Casket Company – Who You Were
Just a year after releasing their debut full-length Paper Hill Casket Company came back with the follow up. A little more adventurous in their songwriting, this album still packs quite the punch when they get rolling. Their brand of Gothic Americana meets indie folk noir was always such a unique take on the folk pantheon. Still highly recommended for anyone who likes murder ballads and Cohen Brothers films.


The Proud Flesh – Home
Three years after their debut album The Proud Flesh delivered a worthy successor. Taking the liberty to be a little more rock ‘n’ roll than its predecessor, Home was a natural progression for a band that was busy exploring a wide range of Americana influences. This album contains some of their strongest material, yet I felt then, and do now, that it was somewhat overlooked at the time. Maybe that was just my own weird perspective but I wanted more people to fawn over this record the way I felt it deserved.


Tetramer – Another Public Meltdown
Before I had ever heard this band someone, and I can’t for the life of me remember who, said they sounded like “Queens of the Stone Age only way less pretentious”. That honestly could not have been a better description. These guys took that sort of desert-influenced alt rock sound and ran it through a prism of prog and classic rock influences. This album was an entirely refreshing sound when it was released and remains so today. (p.s. I know I’m breaking my initial rule regarding only writing about full-lengths here. Sue me.)


Rusty Things – Wading Through The Waste
These guys were such an unbelievably fun band. Their brand of cowpunk was not only blast-able with the windows down on a summer day but translated so well to the stage. One of my favorite Glastonbury Apple Harvest and Music Festival memories was booking these guys to play a Sunday afternoon gig. It was a cold, windy day. They were tearing it up and people were loving it. Suddenly the tent that the sound guys were using on the side of the stage took off in a stiff breeze. I happened to be standing in front of the stage and had to literally catch the damn thing in mid-air, throw it to the ground and keep it from taking off again, saving a woman and her kid from getting impaled. The whole time Rusty Things just kept right on playing and it was the perfect soundtrack to the entire scene, including avoiding utter disaster.


The Backyard Committee – Festival
I’m going to be brutally honest here and admit to you all that I almost completely missed this record when it was released at the tail end of the year. I still don’t think I’ve given this album its proper due all these years later. Its a fantastic display of psych influenced indie folk. Please don’t sleep on this record like I almost did and then almost did again. Bad look for me but you can save face.


Johnny Mainstream – Ghost Broadway
I know at least one local DJ (Hi, Gary) who thought this was the best album from 2013. It certainly had to be in the discussion. Mixing indie rock, folk, and Americana elements into this sort of grab bag of awesome, this was the album that really put Johnny Mainstream on the local map. They’ve released some truly excellent material since then, but this album still remains one of their best and a must listen for fans of any of the aforementioned genres.


Stone Titan – Scratch N’ Sniff
Don’t let the ridiculous (yet amazing) album artwork or the goofy song titles throw you off. This band was as heavy and as dangerous as a sack of hammers right to the crotch. The music here is sludgy, fuzzy, loud, and honestly completely obnoxious in all the right ways. You never knew what to expect from this band on record or on stage, but you always knew they were going to rattle the walls and try their hardest to induce a mass bowel movement. I loved every second of it.


The Suicide Dolls – Prayers In Parking Lots
Another band that released a near perfect record only to, so far, have it be their last. New London’s The Suicide Dolls were as rock ‘n’ roll as they come. Mixing elements of alt rock, garage rock, and noise rock into this succinct package, this was a band that had the ability to get heavy and yet remain completely accessible to anyone who had Radio 104.1 set as one of their preferred stations in the car. It was an addictive combination to say the least.


Ovlov – am
Mixing indie rock and indie pop elements with some seriously abrasive guitar lines, Ovlov have been one of the more unique indie bands on the CT scene for a long time and I really feel like this album is kind of where they put it all together, so to speak. Still one of my favorite releases from a pretty impressive catalogue.

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