More (Non-Metal) Guitar In The Monitor – April 2020

Our pseudo-monthly look at the non-metal albums that have been in constant rotation as of late. This time around it’s an all Connecticut version…


Brian Larney – Trabant
I’m not sure if there’s a musician who has sprung albums on me recently the way Bridgeport’s Brian Larney has. His 2018 offering, White, showed up late in the year and I’m still kicking myself for not finding it quickly enough to include on the annual year-end list I do for the ‘big paper’. Once again, as the chills of winter started an early thaw in late February, Brian Larney plopped down an album that not only took me by surprise with its mere presence, but again knocked me over with his songwriting prowess. Trabant is an album rooted in the Americana pantheon, but has enough memorable hooks to compete with any pop album around. Tracks like “Vessel”, “Pledge of Allegiance”, “I Just Don’t Feel Like I Used To”, and “Hi-Test” could easily find a home on commercial radio, with vibrant structures and often times choruses that getting glued to your very psyche over time. Larney’s delivery is slick and coated in exceptional production, which only adds to this album’s crossover appeal. To say that this album is easily digestible in all the best ways possible would be a massive, massive understatement. Fans of pop-infused indie folk should get their hands on this record post haste.


Kierstin Sieser – Shark Tooth Moon
One of my absolute favorite albums of the last few years was the full-length debut from Connecticut’s Tiny Ocean. Less than two years later we are gifted with a new album from Tiny Ocean front woman, Kierstin Sieser. While there are definitely ties back to her band, Shark Tooth Moon takes the Tiny Ocean sound and stretches it to new and wondrous boundaries. The smokey, desert-infused Americana of Tiny Ocean’s work is there, just fluttering on the surface, but buried deep within these tracks is a musical heart made from various experimental and noir influences. Sieser is a folk artist on this record, often showcasing precious little accompaniment to her guitar and voice. But this is one folk artist who is seemingly bent on obliterating exactly what that means. There’s a dream-like quality to these tracks that often puts this album more in line with artists like Mazzy Star, Luna, and Galaxie 500 than anything resembling ‘folk music’. But that’s the beauty in this album. Its surreal and ethereal qualities are absolutely mesmerizing and make it downright addictive for anyone who likes to throw the headphones on and just let the music take them away from this earthly plane, even if for only for a few precious moments. Need a sweet and beautiful release from our current state of affairs? Shark Tooth Moon may be just what you need.


Mercy Choir – Corinthian
Just prior to our current virus-inspired social lock down, Paul Belbusti, mastermind behind indie folk act Mercy Choir, holed himself up in his studio and emerged with another in a long line of exceptional albums. Belbusti’s timing was impeccable. There may be no Mercy Choir album more fitting for its time than Corinthian. Belbusti has practiced musical social distancing for some time, often entering a studio with nothing more than his guitar, his biting wit, and what I imagine is a well-worn notebook filled with the lyrics and ideas of a genius. This is once again a stripped down affair were it’s often just Belbusti and an acoustic guitar performing as if he’s captivating an intimate crowd in a darkened listening room. The songs themselves, as Belbusti states on his Bandcamp page, deal with, “…solitude, longing, love, distance, hope, faith, connection in a time of uncertainty…” which seems to run the gamut of emotions each of us are struggling with on an hourly basis these days. Humans are creatures of habit and even those among us who thrive on change don’t like having everything about our ‘normal’ routine tossed around like a cheap salad. So in that respect it makes perfect sense that there’s a new Mercy Choir record to help ground us. Is there any artist from Connecticut who is more prolific, and any songwriter that is more perceptive to the human condition than Belbusti? You’d be hard-pressed to find better alternatives. Corinthian may or may not have been an album Mercy Choir fans were asking for, but it’s certainly an album we could all use right now.


Shandy Lawson – Shandy Lawson
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a new Shandy Lawson album to talk about. (12 years according to his website.) During that gap Lawson has logged a lot of miles, lived in a bunch of places, and honed his craft. The end result is an album that spotlights a songwriting that may be an older soul than even he would let on. Now settled back down in New Haven, Lawson has penned an album’s worth of tunes that dance across folk music’s robust lineage. Lawson is a storyteller and weaves tales of love, loss, and life that are completely relatable, yet wonderfully unpredictable. Lawson is also someone who doesn’t belabor the point. Only four tracks on this record run longer than two and a half minutes, yet somehow Lawson manages to write songs that stick with you much longer than their run times. If you’re looking for upbeat, catchy folk-based music then you could do a lot worse than to settle in with Lawson’s new effort.

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