We’ve crossed the halfway point to this exercise and so far I think the one thing that’s been hammered home for me is that it’s nearly impossible to truly bookmark every great release by Connecticut bands. 2015 was another exceptional year with a handful of amazing debuts, and follow-up albums that exceeded their predecessors. It was a transition year of sorts for me personally, but one thing that remained constant was the exceptional quality of music I was able to surround myself with.
The Meadows Brothers – Won’t Be Troubled
You hear stories about siblings that have this sort of sixth sense surrounding each other, and how when that’s transferred to the musical arena it can be magical. The Meadows Brothers, who are actual brothers, have proven that to be true time and time again. This was their debut full-length and compared to their more recent material it’s a stripped down affair – two voices, two guitars, and one harmonica. It’s the perfect stage for their brand of bluesy Americana to really shine. There is a very good reason that their live sets still feature some of the tracks on this album. Because they are extremely well-written, memorable songs delivered with aplomb.
Mercy Choir – Sings In The Traditional Rock And Roll Style
We’ve lauded Mercy Choir’s Paul Belbusti in this space before for both his prolific output and the quality of the material. We’ve also talked about how no two Mercy Choir records are alike, which makes for a surprising adventure with every release date. Sometimes you need to look no further than the album’s title to figure out what you’re in for. This time around Mercy Choir did indeed sing (and play) in the traditional rock and roll style. Taking cues from blues, rockabilly, surf rock, psych rock, and conventional rock ‘n’ roll, Belbusti proved he could write a rock record of the highest order. The whole album progresses along the same lines as rock history. The first two tracks play like something out of the late ’50s/early ’60s but by the time you hit the middle of this record you’ve drifted into psych rock territory. The whole album is fantastic and watching it progress from track to track is fascinating. One of my favorite Mercy Choir releases.
Mountain Movers – Death Magic
Another act with a long and somewhat prolific history, especially in the second half of this decade (producing three albums over a five year period). If you stacked up every Mountain Movers record and asked which one was the most accessible I may select this one. There are obviously still some heavy psych rock overtures on here. However, there are also a number of tracks that seem to travel a distinct, traditional path, often times mixing alt and indie rock aesthetics into the mix more than on other efforts. If you’ve never heard Mountain Movers before, I may tell you to start with this record and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Quiet Giant – loom
I loved this band and I don’t think I’m completely over their demise. The band was originally called loom and decided to shift gears with a name change, but named their debut record after their old band moniker. Mixing some of the best vocals to come out of the CT indie rock scene with driving, jangly indie rock/pop, Quiet Giant were a force to be reckoned with right out of the gates. These guys had this amazing talent to write songs that felt both nostalgic and fresh. These songs stuck with you long after the record stopped spinning, and upon revisiting, they still do.
Balkun Brothers – Redrova
Fun story. The only noise complaint I’ve ever received for the Pratt Street Lunchtime Music Series in Hartford was that time a couple summers ago when I decided to book the Balkun Brothers. They were literally rattling windows. It was great. Their debut EP, 2013’s God Bless Our Fallout Shelter was an excellent display of blues rock prowess, just the tip of an amazing iceberg. This album was where they started to really hone in on the ‘rock’ part of the equation. There are obviously blues elements still at play here, but it’s more Hendrix and Zeppelin than Muddy and The Wolf. Fans of anything remotely tied to all the blues rock giants of the ’60s and ’70s should make friends with this record immediately.
Brian Dolzani – A Place That I Can Feel
Brian Dolzani has been making music for a long time. He’s also a road warrior, playing more shows across this big country of ours than just about any other artist around. I’m not sure if I’ve ever come across a musician that just keeps getting better with every…single…album. For me personally this was the album that turned me from a fan to a fanatic. I thought it was a huge leap in songwriting (which is saying a lot) and production. It’s the perfect album to pop on with the windows down on a picturesque summer day, and despite me falling in love even harder with this album’s follow up (we’ll get there eventually), it’s still an album that I would classify as completely essential for fans of the indie folk/folk rock genre.
Ceschi – Broken Bone Ballads
I think this was the album that made me truly realize how special Ceschi was/is and how different of an artist he is compared to other hip hop acts. His lyrics are equally biting and relatable. The songs are structured in unique ways, mixing in elements of alt/indie rock/indie pop that you just won’t find on the vast majority of hip hop releases. For someone like myself who is rooted in the rock pantheon it’s an album that hit home unlike almost any other hip hop record I had heard up to this point.
Empty Vessels – Throw Your Shadow
I always found this band to be a bit of an enigma in the best way possible. They were metal, they were punk, they were hardcore, they were noise, they experimented, they rocked the eff out. They were sort of an everything band for all the lost souls in the state who liked their music aggressive and sometimes a little weird. My only wish is that I had caught this band live more than I did. They were one of a handful of heavy CT acts that spent this past decade touring the country, opening for some of the biggest and best bands in underground extreme music, and making way more noise than any two-piece ever should. Unfortunately they’ve been pretty silent since 2017 and I’m really hoping this is a hiatus and not a permanent ending.
Old Royals – Fairlawn
Every year there’s at least one band that, for me, comes out of left field to absolutely blow me away. In 2015 it was Hartford’s Old Royals. I’m trying to remember how I came across this band, and I think they contacted me originally. If that’s how it went down I’m glad they did. This record is the perfect marriage of Americana and indie folk played with more muscle than either of those genres normally exude. Driving guitar lines, and a powerful rhythm section pepper this record and help set it apart from just about every other band of this ilk.
Tomb and Thirst – Wrath
One of my absolute favorite heavy records from CT this past decade. There are elements of grindcore, doom, crust/d-beat, and it’s so brutally heavy at almost every turn that I know some fellow metalheads who aren’t even into it. It’s an unrelenting album in every way imaginable and I’ve been sitting over here for the last four years patiently waiting for a follow-up album. (Not so) Fun fact: I booked this band to play at an ill-fated festival I put together but they wound up having to cancel because their drummer was injured in a bike accident. I never got to see them play live again after that.
Violent Mae – Kid
I can remember when their debut album came out thinking, ‘how the hell are they going to top that?’ So all they did was follow it up with one of the greatest records this state has ever produced. That’s not hyperbole. That’s my honest opinion as someone who has listened to a lot of damn records from this state. When they first started peppering their live set with these songs I knew we were all in for something special. Their brand of dark, melodic indie rock is so cathartic on so many levels. “Neon Halos” is still one of my all-time favorite songs and I’m pretty sure the last time I saw them play a show (at The Space in Hamden) that I yelled out for them to play it like a petulant 17-year old…and they did. That will always be one of my most favorite concert memories. I might write a love letter to Violent Mae one day, begging them to come back to us.
Wise Old Moon – Don’t Take Off
After dropping their debut album the year before, Wise Old Moon quickly followed it up with a worthy successor. I little more ambitious than their previous release, yet also doubling down on the twang, this is the album that would really cement them as one of the best Americana acts in the state. There’s a rootsy, down-home feeling about this record, yet also feels like something entirely refreshing compared to what was being released across the world at that time. Definitely worth revisiting if you’re a fan of music that falls along the Americana pantheon.
Jeff Przech – Sounds Like Fresh
Debut solo album from one of Connecticut’s most genuine alt country acts. Anyone who knows me knows I love my country to actually sound like country music. You can take this click-track loving, pop rock bullshit that’s been passed off as country for the last two decades and blast it into the sun for all burning eternity. When I first met Jeff I noted that he had a tattoo of Waylon Jennings’ ‘flying W’ symbol. I knew we were going to get along and I knew I was going to like his music. If you actually like your country music to not be ‘all hat and no cattle’ then park the pickup truck right here for a bit.
Heavy Breath – Jumps The Shark
2015 was a great year for heavy music in CT and you can count Heavy Breath among a group of releases that really stuck with me. Taking noise rock and post-hardcore elements and filtering them through a blistering hardcore kaleidoscope, Heavy Breath could tear down entire buildings with their heaviness while also keeping things really interesting. Like almost every other heavy record I loved in 2015, this would be their last album to date. Another band I’d love one more chance to see crush everything around them.
Jacques Le Coque – Hooky
The second (and not the last) album on these lists from Stamford’s Jacques Le Coque. Not as heavy as their previous album, this one saw them dip even further into old school garage rock territory while not completely losing their punk rock edge. Every record this band has written is entirely addictive, and this one is certainly no different.
Krista Baroni – The Alabaster Girl
I’ll fully admit that I was a late bloomer when it came to this record. It slipped by me at the beginning of the year and it wasn’t until damn near a year later that I’d finally stumble upon its beauty. I have no idea, to this day, how that was entirely possible but there it is. It’s a folk record at heart but mixed in enough indie elements to separate it from the pack, and Baroni’s soulful voice floats in and out of each track in the most angelic of ways. It’s an absolute home run for anyone who likes to attend festivals with ‘folk’ in the title.
Lines West – Two of a Perfect Pair
Alt/roots rock act, Lines West have put out some excellent material this past decade and you could make an argument that this album was the best of the lot. Songwriters Brian Larney and John Radzin go back and forth trading songs like a folksier version of Lennon and McCartney, but when you put it altogether the end product is a cohesive collection of memorable tunes.