Authors Posts by Austin Sorette

Austin Sorette

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Wanderkook
"The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook" is on stage at West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth.

Dear Reader,

Come along with me on a journey. It’s one that crosses the worlds of music, art, dance, literature, and a story so metaphysical, the nature of reality is called into question upon every note, illustration, movement, and sentence.

“The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook” is the brainchild of local musician Jonny Peiffer. Starting out as an album for the 2007 RPM Challenge, Peiffer evolved his “Wanderkook” project from a piano-based composition into a multi-media concept. A flower blossoming one petal at a time, elements of “Wanderkook” grew as local actor and director Dan Beaulieu provided the text, dancer Sarah Duclos organized the choreography, artists Catherine Stewart and Sara Peiffer provided the illustrations, and CJ Lewis tied it all together as director.

The finished product opened last weekend at West End Studio Theatre (WEST) in Portsmouth and runs through June 25. Guests at the show are treated to a wildly imaginative journey to fantastical places filled with music and art.

Described by Peiffer as part “Alice in Wonderland,” part “Gulliver’s Travels,” and part “The Wizard of Oz,” the “Wanderkook” story explores a theme that’s ingrained in human instinct. Oliver Z. Wanderkook, “a studious anthropologist … and a tireless adventurer and explorer,” travels into foreign territory and chronicles what he sees, and the audience follows him on his journey, regardless of how reliable he is as a narrator.

Wanderkook

The breadcrumb of Wanderkook’s journey starts simply with, “I leave you here a story and an occasional rhyme.” From there, the performance spills into a world of jazz music, interpretive dance, interactive animation, and a bottomless well of imagination.

The performance begins in the gallery wing of the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC), which displays sketches and drawings of Wanderkook’s belongings, including his hat, tobacco tins, leather-bound journal, and musical instruments. The illustrations, created by Dean Diggins, depict Wanderkook in various stages of his journeys to an unknown destination. Diggins drew inspiration from Wanderkook’s journal entries, penned by Dan Beaulieu.

Suddenly, the lights flick out, and a lonely spotlight shines on Wanderkook’s journal in the middle of the gallery. As he introduces his journey, the sound of a trumpet comes from outside. Musician Zach Lange, like a less sinister Peid Piper, then leads the audience out PMAC’s back door, through the West Gardens and into the WEST space.

From there, Peiffer’s septet, Sojoy, eases into waltzy-jazz introductions. Audience members take their seats as dancer Amanda Whitworth takes over the room. She translates Sarah Duclos’ choreography into an interpretive dance with such fluidity, you’d think it was improvised. Throughout Wanderkook’s journeys, Whitworth uses every inch of the performance space to swirl up all the notes pouring from Sojoy’s brass section.

Sojoy
Sojoy, with Jonny Peiffer at far left.

The story begins with Wanderkook setting sail on his latest adventure. His soon faces a terrible storm, which destroys his boat and leaves him stranded at sea. From then on, the show presents a spiderweb of journeys within journeys. Wanderkook travels to the nine tribes of the Land of Two Suns, a fantasy world documented with such clarity that the audience is left to question what exactly is real.

The culture of each tribe is meticulously translated into music, dance, literature, and illustration. The Cloud Tribe’s enduring blur of Brazilian-style jazz is a world apart from the funky, syncopated rhythms of the Funky Fungi Mushroom Chorus. The River Goddess’ gypsy gyrations contrast with the Two-Faced Man’s sarcastic shuffle, a ragtime number bordering on vaudeville.

During the June 18 performance, New Hampshire Youth Poet Laureate Ella McGrail served as the special guest reader of Wanderkook’s journal, taking on multiple vocal styles. She tossed and turned tones quickly from Wanderkook’s hardened journalistic-style observations to his playful yet perplexing stream-of-consciousness poems.

As the stories unfold, Wanderkook’s drawings are displayed in animation on a projector screen at the far corner of the room. The animation, produced by Catherine Stewart and Sara Peiffer, creates a visual stimulant that helps the audience follow the chronology of Wanderkook’s tale.

Though the production has many important players, the key performer is imagination — the imagination of the show’s creator, the band, the writers, the choreographers, and even the audience, which ultimately is invited to weigh in on what’s happening. There’s no right or wrong answer, as the entire exploration is left open to interpretation. No one knows for sure what’s going on — not even Wanderkook himself — and that’s the beauty of it.

“The Adventures of Oliver Z. Wanderkook” is on stage Friday and Saturday, June 23 and 24, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 25, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25, or $10 for kids age 12 and under. For more information, click here.

Nasimoto

In a way, a mashup between Nas and Quasimoto seems like a match made in heaven.

Nas, who famously worked with the hottest producers available during the recording of the “hip-hop bible” “Illmatic,” has a reputation for using some of the greatest beats of all time to carry his extraordinary rhymes. 

For Quasimoto, on the other hand, the beats were the main ingredient, and the vocals were secondary. The Quasimoto project is the brainchild of L.A. beat-maker Madlib, who famously said he’s a “DJ first, producer second, MC last.” Rather than showcasing his rapping chops, Madlib altered the pitch of his voice to sound like a hit of blunt smoke chased with helium. Quasimoto’s distinctive voice was like crack for artsy types but could be off-putting for the passive listener.

To hip-hop fans, it’s baffling that Madlib has never produced a beat for Nas. But Portsmouth-based DJ D. Begun has taken it upon himself to settle the “what-ifs” for fans. Using the beats from Quasimoto’s critically-acclaimed 2000 release “The Unseen,” Begun reimagined the album with carefully selected verses from Nas songs. Thus, “Nasimoto” was born.

Since its release, the “Nasimoto” album has taken the hip-hop scene by storm, garnering write-ups in the genre’s biggest media outlets like HotNewHipHop.com, DatPiff, and Pigeons and Planes. The Sound caught up with D. Begun to talk about his early hip-hop endeavors, the process of finding the perfect Nas verse for each Quasimoto beat, and the unexpected success of his work.

Nasimoto by D. Begun

Tell me a little bit about your background. When did you start making beats and getting into hip-hop?

I’ve been into hip-hop for my entire life going back as far as I can remember. It has really been the only form of music that I latched on to. I started making beats about 15 years ago, originally using FruityLoops, which was free at the time. I pretty much produced for my own enjoyment, not ever releasing anything and only working with other artists a handful of times. Only recently have I decided to release any of the productions that I have done.

What was the first mashup you did?

I have been doing remixes of songs for a long time with my own production, but the first time I created a mash-up, or at least a full length mash-up, was with Jay Z’s “The Black Album” around 2005. When that album came out, they released a full-length a cappella version of it. There were many mash-ups and remixes done with this, and that is the first time I can remember putting together a complete mashup record. I took Jay Z’s vocals from that album and laid them over various DJ Premier beats.

So, why mash up Nas and Quasimoto/Madlib? Did you hear some sort of connection between the two artists when you listened to them?

The first Quasimoto album, “The Unseen,” which I used for all of the tracks on this album, has always been one of my favorite albums from a production standpoint. The rapping on that album is done by the producer, Madlib, in an alter-ego named Quasimoto, with his vocals pitched way up. I was always wondering what that album would sound like with a great emcee rapping over it, so one day I just decided to lay Nas’ vocals over a few tracks. Those tracks came out great and so I decided to continue and complete an entire album’s worth.

How did you go about deciding which Nas verses you would use for each Quas beat? What were some of the tracks that were the easiest to mash up and which ones were the hardest and took the most time?

Some of it was a little trial and error, trying to figure out which verse went best with which beat, and some of it came more naturally. I also tried to pull at least a couple of songs from many different Nas albums and time periods. There were times that I thought a certain verse/song would work well over a certain beat, and once I laid everything down, it just didn’t come together at all. The “Come On Feet” beat in particular was one that I tried with a number of different Nas songs before I settled on using “We Will Survive,” which I still don’t think is a perfect fit but just one that seemed to work well enough. There were others, like “Get Down,” where I laid the vocals over the track and it worked so beautifully together that I barely needed to do any work at all.

Some tracks, like “Hey Nas (Boom Music),” are reworked with a faster tempo at a higher pitch. Yet some, like “One Love (Microphone Mathematics),” are almost completely untouched. Besides mashing up Nas and Quas, how much did you manipulate the sounds of the songs?

I tried as best as I could to not manipulate the tempos too drastically on any songs, but there obviously has to be some degree of that to get it to work properly. I did pitch up a few to speed them up because I just felt they worked so well with the vocals and that was the only way to get them to match up. I had to manipulate the beats as far as changing their arrangements so that it would line up with the vocals as well, and that was where most of the manipulation took place. The one thing I did not do at all was alter the tempo or pitch of the vocal tracks. I didn’t want to lose the integrity of the original. I did drop many of the choruses from the original Nas tracks in favor of just letting the music play or putting in some scratching from the Quasimoto songs. I was trying to get a certain vibe for the record, which meant cutting out a lot of sung choruses in particular, such as removing Lauryn Hill from “If I Ruled the World” and R. Kelly from the “Street Dreams” remix.

Were you concerned at all that a mashup of these two artists might not be well received by listeners? Nas and Madlib are objectively two of the greatest of all time, so it seems ambitious to mash those two artists together.

Honestly, I originally created the majority of this album about six or seven years ago, and I wasn’t thinking at that time that the album would actually ever have any listeners. When I finally did decide to release it, I didn’t know what kind of attention it would receive, so I didn’t really think about it then either, to be honest. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, so it seems to have worked out pretty well.

Earlier in April, you also released your first EP, “82 til’.” Why did you decide to release the two albums so close together?

I actually put the EP out after the “Nasimoto” album, but just backdated the release date because, on the Bandcamp site, the most recent album is the first one that is highlighted and I knew people were going there specifically for the Nas and Quasimoto mashup. I have had a collection of instrumental tracks that I have made over the years, so I figured that while I was garnering a lot of attention for the mashup album, I would put a handful of those up as well, just to see what kind of reception that they would get.

“Nasimoto” seems to be getting a lot of hype from hip-hop blogs everywhere. How do you feel the album has been received so far?

The reception has honestly been pretty overwhelming. When I released this originally, I was hoping that maybe it would reach a couple hundred people and that maybe a handful of people would download it and enjoy it. It has gone way beyond that. I have been contacted by people all over the world and the reception has been all positive. To see work that I have done posted on sites and blogs that I have gone to for years and shared on social media by artists that I have a lot of respect for has been amazing. People seem to really enjoy the work.

What would you say is the best Nas verse and the best Quasimoto beat and why?

The best Nas verse to me has always been the first verse off of his first album. The opening verse to “N.Y. State of Mind” on “Illmatic,” generally considered to be the greatest hip-hop album of all time, to me is not only his best verse, but arguably the greatest verse ever recorded. The delivery and the word play of that verse is simply brilliant. The best beat on the Quasimoto album to me is the “Low Class Conspiracy” beat. He flipped the sample in that brilliantly.

What’s next for you? Any other projects or mashups you’re working on?

Well, I have a lot of work that I have done in the past that I have never released, so right now I am digging through a lot of that to see what is the next thing to refine and finish and put out there. I am also working on another mashup album right now featuring the Beastie Boys, and that is coming along nicely. I don’t have a timeline for any more releases but there will definitely be some coming in the next couple of months.

Now Hear This June

“Resist Consumerism *Buy Our Album*” by The Woolly Mammoths
Mammoth Collective Records

Woolly Mammoths Resist Consumerism

The idea that punk-rock music was created to antithesize disco probably made a lot of sense to those who lived through its development in the ’70s. But, in the 21st century, as blurring genre lines has become a much more accepted practice, we get music like The Woolly Mammoths: rock that lets you wear platform shoes and a leather jacket.

The Hampton-based group’s brand of dance-punk melds both facets of the genre. The quartet employs the more abstract psychedelic characteristics of Bloc Party and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, while laying down a foundation of the rocking distortion and hard lateral-hip swing rhythms of Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem.

The band throws a lot at the listener throughout its sophomore album, “Resist Consumerism,” but the songs reveal intricacy. It’s evident in the minimalism of the guitar and vocals in “Motion IV,” and in the banger of a single “Daggers,” in which each band member creates layer after layer of sound from wood blocks, electronic drums, and synthesizer.

While the musicianship and the infectious electric energy is impressive, the real feat is the fluidity of the album’s track list. As stand-alone singles, “Red Tie Blue,” “Daggers,” and “Cigarettes Are Bullies” are good representations of the band’s core sound, but to get the full effect, play the CD from start to finish without skipping a track.

For a generation that gets a lot of flack for creating singles and not full records, it’s refreshing to see a group pay so much attention to the art of the album. Check it out here.

“Moonlightning” by Marvel Prone
self-released

Marvel Prone Moonlightning

Stirring up elements of classic rock, psychedelia, and bubblegum pop, Marvel Prone’s debut EP “Moonlightning” features eight songs that float along a plume of hazy dreams. The band’s trip-pop melodies are rooted in The Beatles and Tame Impala.

The latest product of Chris Chase and the famous 1130 ft Studios in Rollinsford, “Moonlightning” harnesses angly guitar, chunky bass, and psychedelic synthesizer to construct another collection of songs aimed at expanding the mind. The album acts as Marvel Prone’s introduction to the jam-based Newmarket scene, from the opening harmonies of the Phish-inspired opener “DAVE, the Supermoon!” to the melancholic melodies of the eponymous track.

The album really starts to cook with its best track, “Diamond Eyes.” Singer and guitarist Rainor Tsunami thrashes on the guitar as Peter Dubois lets his keys run wild with noise over the furious jungle rhythms produced by drummer Bailey Weakley. The enthusiasm rings palpably in the song, and everything simply comes together, sonically and lyrically.

The lyrics offer the spectrum balance of poetry and rhyming dictionary consultation. The EP is made up of eight confessionals that yearn for love, making for some excellent imagery. “Nocturnal Life” and “After a While” both showcase the thoughts of a budding young poet. But while most of the songs read well, songs like “Beauty Blazing Fury” stumble. Despite its interesting rhyme scheme, the song features a lot of shoehorning from Tsunami that can sometimes wake the listener up from the band’s dreamy lyrics.

“Moonlightning” is an impressive debut, but where the band really shines is on stage. Seeing Marvel Prone live will help “Moonlightning” make more sense. You can listen to the album here.

“Wonderful Most Incredible” by Palanapanache
self-released

Palapanache Wonderful Most Incredible

Every once in awhile, an album comes along where you can tell by the first track that something is wrong. Not wrong as in incorrect; wrong as in different, exposing how strictly you’ve trained your ears to seek the comfort of Western pop structures.

“Wonderful Most Incredible” is not for the passive listener. It is, however, a work of sonic art divided not into songs but vignettes. With the longest track measuring under three minutes and the shortest barely over 40 seconds, the eight-song EP is a puzzle in which songwriter Palana Belken has re-cut and rearranged the pieces into a brand new picture.

Even when the Somersworth-based band comes close to conventional pop in “sizeblind,” the disjointed vocals and melodies from the Roland 808 drum machine still require some intensive listening in order to understand the full scope of the song (here’s hoping that “radical diarrhea” is just a metaphor).

Just when you start to wrap your mind around the songwriting, “remarkable child” kicks off the second half of the record in a lo-fi punk explosion. In a fury of over-distortion, thrashy pop guitar, and bopping beats, the final three tracks — “got pot,” “(wonderful most incredible),” and “jane” — add even more tension to the need for attention.

The avant-electronica of Palanapanache isn’t your ordinary summer soundtrack for a drive to the beach; this music calls for a little thought. In other words, it’s art for art’s sake. The message may be hard to receive at first listen, but opening up your ears is the first step to opening up your mind. Give it a try here

Now Hear this May featured

“The Green Bullets” by The Green Bullets
self-released

The Green Bullets

The term “lo-fi” gets tossed around a lot to describe new releases. But you never know how low the “fi” can go. The Green Bullets represent the lowest fi you’ll hear on the Seacoast.

The Dover-based duo, comprised of Harry Griffin and J.W. Ayer, rented a house in Deerfield to record their new album from February to December of last year. With Ayer’s younger brother Thomas also contributing, the band utilizes a merry-go-round technique where each member plays different instruments on different tracks.

At first listen, The Green Bullets’ self-titled release sounds a little like a bedroom tape: the vocals masked in reverb, the scratch of the guitar pick against the strings, the chaotic ringing of the cymbals. But it’s a step up in production value compared to the band’s previous releases, some of which rank right up there with “Wavvves” and “Horn the Unicorn” in terms of garage-rock-fueled static noise.

Yet despite the band’s obvious ties to lo-fi indie rock, the instrumentation makes the music feel closer to the pop rock of the 1950s. The Green Bullets are one “shoobie doo-wop” away from The Platters and Dion.

Lyrically, the band emulates garage-rock acts like Ty Segall and The Black Lips. Each of the stories relayed in the songs are so lyrically sparse that they’re almost pushed into absurdism. The flash is stripped away, condensing the words into mostly filler with catchy alliteration. “I love you so / but it’s all I know,” they sing on the opening track, “Spooky One.”

Overall, The Green Bullets are moving in the right direction. If they continue to “stay away from troubles” and “try (their) best with words,” as they sing on the new album, they’ll be on the verge of a major splash with their next release.

Check out “The Green Bullets” here.

“Life On The(se) Line(s)” by Skee
self-released

Life on The(se) Line(s) by Skee

Middle-school math teacher and MC Aaron Ward, aka Skee, is back with his microphone mathematics in his latest album, “Life On The(se) Line(s).”

A teacher of both mathematics and conscientious hip-hop, Skee’s flow shows he’s a student of Hova himself. In a genre where the quality of your lyrics can make or break you, Skee stands out as someone who not only gives a shit about his writing, but is good at it too.

Flashes of genius come out in songs such as “More Than Music,” where Skee debates himself on philosophical quandries such as the necessity of music. “Music saves lives but it didn’t save mine / Before I started with this I was fine / Actually go back rewind that line / maybe I’m lyin’ / Didn’t literally save me, but it saved my mind,” he raps.

The biggest showcase of Skee’s internal turmoil emerges in “Start Now.” The song plays out like an anxiety attack, exploring the push and pull of basic moral functions, like wanting to “come across selfless / but I’m selfish like you can’t help it.”

He later raps, “My eyes open, but I don’t see it / or maybe I see it but I just delete it / or I meet it with indifference ’cause I think that I don’t need it / used to think anything I wanted, I could be it.” Skee puts his fingers on the pulse of basic human tension, which is a breath of fresh air from the grandiose, luxury-themed drek that comes out of the mainstream nowadays.

The beats on the new disc are definitely a step forward from his previous release. While the first few songs start off a little dry, the “back nine” is where the album really starts to flow. The ballad-esque “Start Now” bleeds into the R&B melodies of “More Than Music.” The orchestral crescendo of “Pace Tracks” passes cleanly into the jazz-hop-influenced “My Life.”

From there, Skee locks into a groove, and the rest of the album flies in a fury of razor-sharp rhymes cutting through thick, rich beats.

Listen to the album here.

“From the Garage” by Wellfleet
self-released

From the Garage by Wellfleet

Looking for a soundtrack for your summer? Wellfleet’s debut album has all the nostalgic charm of crushing beers with your friends in a remote field, “Dazed And Confused” style.

It is always encouraging to hear a new take on “classic” rock. In many ways, the genre has been beaten to death, with the same handful of singles pervading sporting events, office park cafes, restaurant bathrooms, and everywhere in between.

But the boys in Wellfleet create a “classic” rock sound that’s as refreshing as a cold beer after an intolerably hot July day. The sweet intertwining melodies and harmonies, broken only by a shrilling harmonica, give the music a kind of Blues Traveler vibe that transcends multiple generations. Patrick Curry’s unique vocal style is distinguishable, and Craig Roy’s harmonies have the precision of a well-oiled machine.

Curry has moments of sharp poetry in his lyrics. In “Buyers Remorse,” the singer muses about a failing relationship that has him “call you on the phone / with a voice that’s drunk and dripping with denial.”

Roy takes his turn in the spotlight with the song “Final Stand,” penning a tune about fighting against the grain. He sings, “When sometimes it seems that life has got another plan / I always make the most of mine until I take the final stand,” blending aspiration with inspiration as he wails on the harmonica in the vein of true outlaw country.

“From the Garage” is certainly a good choice for blues-rock fans looking for some feel-good tracks to sing along to.

Give it a listen here.

Now Hear This May

“Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” by Guy Capecelatro III
Burst and Bloom Records

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers Guy Capecelatro III

What is there to say about an album that so clearly speaks for itself? Guy Capecelatro III’s latest recording, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” is more than a collection of music. It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end — one filled with philosophical inquiries, gut-wrenching imagery, and a brave documentation of a journey through love’s most harrowing obstacle.

The story follows Capecelatro’s emotional journey after he learns of his wife Pam’s ovarian cancer diagnosis. Song by song, the singer-songwriter guides the listener along through his struggles, learning to live with his shock and sorrow while still being there for Pam. “Hope” features Capecelatro’s finest work, tearjerking from start to finish.

What’s fascinating and fantastic about the album is its musical diversity. Songs such as “I Called It First” and “You Were A Carousel” offer alternative rock twists. Other songs feature haunting piano and sorrowful slide guitar. “Christmas Lament” and “Frayed” convey the dense subject matter with somber tones and folk stylings that open the floodgates.

Then there’s the poetry. The most maddeningly beautiful qualities of Capecelatro’s music lie in his ability to break down the songs so that each piece is just as much a work of art as the whole puzzle. The words of these songs could stand on their own as poems and still carry tremendous weight. The words evoke an emotional breadth that few writers can achieve.

“I’m an atom bomb, you’re nearly gone / We’re rolling up en masse, singing victory songs / You’re fighting this war, lying on the floor / and I’ll understand if you can’t take anymore,” Capecelatro sings in “Two Fronts.”

Even the production of the album is inspiring. Busy with the turmoil of his wife’s treatments, Capecelatro found pockets of time to record song fragments with vocal and guitar parts. Multi-instrumentalist Chris Decato helped push the album forward, “playing ninety-five percent of the instruments and doing all the mixing and arranging,” according to the CD sleeve.

Utilizing the cut-up technique, Decato took the various pieces of Capecelatro’s recordings and created not just a coherent story, but one with an arc. From the moment the couple received Pam’s cancer diagnosis in “Hollow Reminders” to the final act of love in “Some Small Relief,” Decato builds a timeline for Capecelatro’s story. The narrative moves through the months, “sweating from the heat” in “Hospital Days” and chronicling the sickening pressure of the holiday season in “Christmas Lament.”

A notoriously prolific artist, Capecelatro has built a legacy on the Seacoast, and “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” is his magnum opus. It would seem next to impossible for anyone else to document such a heartbreaking journey and come up with such a beautiful sonic companion through the darkest of times.

Learn more about the album here.

“Charles/Heavy Pockets split” by Charles and Heavy Pockets
Cat Dead Details Later

Charles Heavy Pockets split

Split releases are more true to the spirit of punk than any other style of album. The cost of recording is divided between two bands, you get a sample of what those bands are all about, and before you can bat an eye, the needle lifts off the record and you’re anxious to start it up again. In this case, Charles and Heavy Pockets seem like a perfect marriage for an album that’s less than 15 minutes long.

Charles — arguably the new poster boys of Seacoast emo since the Brave Little Abacus called it quits — starts the split with an explosion of sound. The recording includes the band’s best song to date, “300 Miles.” If most songs are like novels, these Charles songs are like short stories stitched together with their signature motif: music drenched in poignancy, rung out over the raw energy of their punk leanings.

The Dover quartet borrows from multiple facets of emo’s wide spectrum: the clean, math-driven guitar licks of American Football; the lofty power of the Get Up Kids; and, of course, the poetics of Jawbreaker. On “300,” guitarist Dante Guzzardi mumbles his melodies gently over the chugging of Ezra Cohen’s bass. On “Wheel,” In the spirit of The Promise Ring, guitarist Connor Sheridan pleads his musings to the calculated rhythm of drummer Cody Tresback.

On the flip side, Heavy Pockets uses the split to continue to evolve. Gone are the lo-fi thrashings of their debut album, “Bite Because You Like It.” Instead, the band welcomes more angst-driven pop rock with bouncy rhythms in the vein of Juliana Hatfield and Veruca Salt.

Guitarist and singer Shayla Riggs harnesses unprecedented power in her ability to consistently deliver her “fuck right off” message with the vocal sensitivities of twee pop. Where Charles contributes multiple ingredients to their emo stew, Heavy Pockets is all meat and potatoes. Bassist Zac Mayeux and drummer Nate Rubin fuse their sounds with Riggs’ strumming to create a solid force of pop-punk music that progresses from the first strike of the chord to the final note ringing into the hiss of the tape recorder.

The band rounds out the split EP with a surf-influenced pop cover of “Smothered In Hugs.” Though it doesn’t take much to produce a cleaner sound than Guided By Voices, there is some humor in the notion that a lo-fi band from New Hampshire can produce a “better” version of a song by one of the most critically acclaimed groups of all time.

Check out the album here.

The Feel Goods
The Feel Goods play a CD release show in Dover on Friday. Brett Witten Photography

During Billy Kottage’s travels as the trombone player for Southern California-based ska band Reel Big Fish, he often performed with another legendary ska-punk band: Less Than Jake. Kottage built a friendship with Less Than Jake’s bassist, Roger Lima, and when Lima heard that Kottage’s Dover-based side project, The Feel Goods, was recording an album, he jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

“(Lima) pestered me for months to put it out, but I never did because of the lack of resources, really,” Kottage said. “Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and decided to put it out himself on his own label.”

That label, Moathouse Records, released The Feel Goods’ debut album, “Running Out of Time,” on April 7.

Feel Goods Running Out of Time album art

The songs on the album came from several years of occasional band practices and rough ideas that were eventually developed into concrete tunes. The band members’ busy schedules made it a slow process. In addition to Kottage being on the road fulltime with Reel Big Fish, bassist Nick Minicucci and saxophonist Andrew Riordan are consistently on tour with Roots of Creation, singer and guitarist Nick Murray plays trumpet for hometown heroes Harsh Armadillo, and there is a “rumor” that drummer Alex Brander is going to start playing shows with Boston-based ska-punk band Big D and the Kids Table, Kottage said.

“This is definitely a side project. All of us are wicked involved with a lot of other things that occupy most of our time,” said Kottage. “The funniest part about this band being a side project is that we started and have had this band longer than anyone has been in anything else.”

Originally known as the All Good :: Feel Good Collective, the band spent several years experimenting with slower, more carefully-paced reggae and rocksteady music, which they recorded on the album “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.” But, after a few personnel changes, the band realized that faster, dance-friendly ska music felt more true to their identity.

“We started to feel a disconnect with some of the songs on ‘Don’t Shoot the Messenger’ and wanted to change our message as a band,” said Minicucci. “We started to see a clearer and more rewarding progression forward within the ska scene. Not only did we change personnel, we changed songwriters, which brought forth a lot of new musical influences.”

The Feel Goods
Left to right, Andrew Riordan, Nick Murray, Alex Brander, Billy Kottage, and Nick Minicucci of The Feel Goods. courtesy photo

For The Feel Goods’ debut, the band members spent time reworking early songs, such as “Rules of Revolution,” and building upon fractured ideas they had been playing for years during their live shows, tweaking tempos and working in melodies for different instruments. The result is a collection of 11 airtight ska arrangements with the precise songwriting of trained musicians. The album leads off with the eponymous track, a move that Minicucci said best represents the band’s rebirth.

“‘Running Out of Time’ was the first song I brought to the table for The Feel Goods,” said Minicucci. “I think, in a lot of ways, it marks our shift in style and message. Ever since then, I feel like it has held a special place within our repertoire. I also really believe it is one of (the strongest), if not our strongest arrangement. It was a natural choice to name the album after that track.”

The Feel Goods have clear influences from ska legends like The Specials and Hepcat, but their ear for melody and talent for harmony draws from many different artists. “Can’t Break The Ice” has the party-friendly, skank-worthy energy of a Toasters deep cut. “Jillian” employs the sweet vocal interplay of Sam Cooke classics. The deep grooves and soulful singing of The Slackers comes out in songs like “Cold Runs Deep.”

Lyrically, the album is across the board. Though ska tends to boast an upbeat, bright sound, the words and stories that frame those anthemic choruses are often close to the darker edge. Songs like “Shoes” and “French Girl” touch on relationship insecurities, while the title track, according to Minicucci, is about “breaking out into a world full of people who seemingly want to bring you down.”

“As long as you truly feel that it’s a story worth telling, you should tell it how you want.” — Nick Minicucci

“I strongly believe in authenticity when writing songs,” he said. “If you are able to deeply explore actual feelings, opinions, and events happening around you, then combine that with a style that feels right or good — no pun intended — you can create amazing music.”

“As long as you truly feel that it’s a story worth telling,” he continued, “you should tell it how you want.”

The band recorded most of the album at 1130 ft studio in Rollinsford. Kottage and Riordan produced the album, while the latter served as the engineer, which gave them more time to craft the sound they wanted. Kottage and keyboardist Tal Pearson tracked the organ and clavinet at the 9b Studio in Milford, Mass., with the help of “the beautiful human that is Toft Willingham of Spiritual Rez,” said guitarist and singer Murray.

After the album was finished, Lima mixed and mastered the record with some outside help, fronting the cost of the remastering.

“This speaks volumes of the kind of guy he is,” said Kottage. “No ego, always seeking the best result.”

Though still a side project, The Feel Goods are making waves on the Seacoast. They’ll host an album release party on Friday, May 5, at Fury’s Publick House in their hometown of Dover.

The Feel Goods have also already written another album. According to Kottage, Lima was very happy with “Running Out of Time” and feels connected to it, and he is planning to record the next album at his studio in Gainesville, Fla.

The Feel Goods will play a CD release show for “Running Out of Time” at Fury’s Publick House in Dover on Friday, May 5.

Now Hear This April

“Somniloquy EP” by Samuel E. Carpenter
self-released

Somniloquy EP by Samuel Carpenter

Dover singer-songwriter Samuel E. Carpenter has released his debut EP “Somniloquy,” a six-song selection of quintessential coffeehouse jams. The album clocks in at barely 15 minutes, almost enough time for a nap. And the tenderness of Carpenter’s songs, from the folk-country twang of “Black Eyed Suzy” to the cautiously optimistic acoustic pop of “Broken Parts,” offers total relaxation. You’d think he’d been singing these lyrics in his sleep.

Shortly after dropping out of the University of New Hampshire’s Fine Arts program, Carpenter retreated to his grandfather’s attic, where he wrote, recorded, and produced “Somniloquy EP” over six months. Through the gentle melodies, there is a context of uncertainty. But the tempo of the songs, along with Carpenter’s confident vocal clarity, give the album a mood that isn’t exactly moody.

Start to finish, each song has a foundation built on Carpenter’s soft finger-style guitar playing and his soothing folk-pop singing. Lo-fi elements like the subtle hissing of the tape are sometimes present. Seeping through the songs like a fog are ambient sounds like backmasking and chant-like backing vocals, giving the songs an ethereal atmosphere.

As the album art suggests, the doors to a calmer mood are before you. If you’re curious enough to enter, you’re sure to stay a while. Give it a listen here.

“Birdhouse” by Waco Sparkler
Are You Kidding Me? Tapes

Birdhouse by Waco Sparkler

Waco Sparkler’s debut album “Birdhouse” feels like the audio equivalent of Rubin’s vase. Hearing the ambient soundscapes and pop juxtaposed in these songs is just as psychologically potent as the ambiguity of seeing two faces or one vase in the same image.

On the opening track, “Be Mad,” for instance, the slow waltz of the drums and guitar lay the foundation, while the stuttering, shimmering keyboard notes create an abstract layer, pulling the mind away from the comfort of the pop undertones and into a free-form soundscape.

The band’s sole member, Jack Reynolds, also constructs his vocals in a bi-stable way to balance the pop with the ambient. Some songs feature catchy, memorable melodies (“Grenadine,” “Surprise”). Others utilize a more stoic, eerily calm preaching, like that of a cult leader (“Birdhouse,” “Rebranded”). Reynolds’ crooning vocals, just a notch above baritone, echo the voice of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis but with a more optimistic outlook.

The band’s true colors come out in the heart of the album. “Epicurious,” the band’s only spoken-word piece, is an attention-grabber at the first strike of the bell. A voice recites words about empowerment, transcendentalism, and metaphysics while string arrangements and a triumphant chord progression shoot across the song like meteorites, bringing you to another world of consciousness.

In other words, “Birdhouse” is a trip. Whether or not your ear catches the ambient soundscapes or the pop structures first, repeated listens entice the mind to bounce back and forth between the two. Hear a sample of the tracks here.

“Slow Coyote” by Slow Coyote
self-released

Slow Coyote

The marriage of hard rock and folk is not new, but Slow Coyote’s musical versatility casts a net to capture listeners of all interests. Juggling sludgy, fuzzy garage rock and psychedelic freak folk, Slow Coyote employs the techniques of the early ’90s Sub Pop groups that molded a mask of loud, sloppy grunge over the tender face of folk.

“Slow Coyote” is the Portsmouth-based trio’s pseudo-sophomore album. Their debut album, “End of the Highway,” which we reviewed around this time last year, features a handful of the same songs found on this self-titled record. Songs like “Freak Show Peep Stare,” “American Cream,” and “On The Road Again” have been reworked with slicker production, while “We Could Talk a Lot” and “You Never Call Me” add new tunes to the Slow Coyote catalog.

The songwriting on the new album parallels the bedroom-tape folk stylings of “End of the Highway.” Guitarist and singer Lucas Heyoka delivers on the sneers, snarls, and droning vocals as he waxes poetic about life, relationships, and society.

But with bassist Justin Uhlig — who also produced and engineered the album — and drummer Jim Hurley contributing a supportive rhythm section, “Slow Coyote” generates more power than the previous album. Uhlig and Hurley push the band to the next level, allowing more room for the type of experimentation and psychedelia the band was born and bred to nurture. Check it out here.

Flying Vipers
Left to right, Marc Beaudette, Zack Brines, and John Beaudette of Flying Vipers. courtesy photo

According to their most literal definitions, “lo-fi” and “dub” seem completely antithetical. The first evokes the sense of a no-name singer-songwriter recording demos in his basement, a la Elliott Smith, waiting for that special person to hear the genius buried beneath the hiss of the rolling tape. The other elicits a genre of music created solely on sound effects generated by foot pedals.

What’s incredible about the Flying Vipers is that the band seeks to completely destroy those stereotypes, to deconstruct the inner workings of lo-fi and dub and build them together into music that is as simple as it is intricate.

The band’s latest release, “The Copper Tape,” is the second volume of this unique project. The trio is comprised of twin brothers John and Marc Beaudette, of Boston-based projects Destroy Babylon and The Macrotones (among others), and Zack Brines of Pressure Cooker and The Kings of Nuthin’. In addition to the core guitar-bass-drums lineup, the boys pepper in other instruments such as melodica, organ, and clavinet.

The Flying Vipers’ not-so-secret weapon is the live mixing run by Jay Champany. Using an eight-track recorder, Champany manually mixes the songs as the band records them on a Tascam 488 MK II. The band records and mixes the songs direct to cassette, creating a completely clean, coherent sound with the authenticity of a true-to-life throwback item. Ironically enough, amidst a renewed interest in cassette tapes, the sound quality of “The Copper Tape” surpasses most others, despite recording the album in the most lo-fi way possible.

The Vipers’ music harkens back to the kings of 1970s dub, such as King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Deep grooves carry the songs, fused with pulsing bass lines and, of course, the best psychedelia in town. Songs like “Mighty Mezz” and “Return of the Living Zero” feature bubbling guitar riffs and organ chords that appear out of nowhere, shimmer beautifully in the lingering air, and then disappear as the bass and drums keep walking along the tape reel. The tape even features a dubbed-out version of the D&D classic “Warriors of the Eternal Sun” for all of us gaming nerds out there.

Whether you need a bit of summery music to escape your winter blues, or you’ve got some “strong coffee and even stronger herb” waiting for you this weekend, “The Copper Tape” showcases badass reggae tunes in the coolest vehicle available.

In advance of their show at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on Friday, The Sound caught up with the brothers Beaudette, New Hampshire natives who can often be found in Rye. They talked about their new tape, their psychedelic approach to songwriting, and what 2017 has in store for the Flying Vipers.

Flying Vipers Cassette

Tell me a little bit about how “The Copper Tape” came to be. Last time we spoke, Flying Vipers seemed like more of a conceptual side project, but now you guys are opening for Big D & The Kids Table.

John Beaudette: The Vipers are still a side thing, but we’re trying to make the live version happen. The biggest hurdle is always finding the time.

Marc Beaudette: Destroy Babylon has always been about pushing ourselves musically, and we tend to relish in the early experimental stage of writing. It’s been nice to balance that with a project that focuses strictly on one sound. We can start and finish songs in a night. The live aspect is a new goal, now that we’ve got the material.

Describe the writing process for this album. How do you guys write for the Flying Vipers differently than for Destroy Babylon or your other projects?

JB: (Destroy Babylon) is a larger group effort where all members contribute song ideas and lyrics, and there are few boundaries, style-wise. While we all love Jamaican music, that is only one piece of the puzzle. I’d say that band is more post-punk-influenced than anything.

MB: We’re restless, musically. We called our label Music ADD knowing we’d probably end up in a few different genre bins. Vipers has been a welcome exercise in restraint.

JB: (Flying Vipers) is a trio, so working out material is much quicker. It’s all about writing a rhythm for bass and drums. Everything starts there, then we build the chord changes — all two of them — and melodies off of that. Jay adds valuable input and guidance while engineering, as well.

How much did the songwriting process change between “The Green Tape” and “The Copper Tape”?

JB: Both sessions were similar in how we approached the writing and recording, but we wanted this one a little more stripped down and dubbed out.

MB: I think we locked in on grooves a bit more this time around, knowing we’d have more fun with post-production effects.

How long had you guys been working on these songs before you started tracking them?

JB: Not long at all. We had maybe two brief rehearsals before tracking everything.

MB: Yeah, we did two this time. One more than the first tape.

Flying Vipers Copper Tape

Recording direct to cassette must make you a little nervous. Because you’re recording all your tracks on one master tape, does that limit the amount of takes you can do?

JB: The amount of takes are only limited by the amount of blank tapes we have. We don’t get nervous, but it does help keep us focused more since we don’t want to waste tape.

MB: We typically don’t go more than a couple takes. Our limits are in the tracks. There are only so many inputs to work with since all the mixing is also done on the tape machine.

The songs on “The Copper Tape” come across as a little more atmospheric and psychedelic than the straight-forward, lo-fi sound of “The Green Tape.” Did you feel Jay was experimenting more this time and taking bigger risks when mixing the album live?

JB: In addition to the RE-201 and Tapco reverb, Jay used a Mu-tron Phasor II on a handful of tracks and, in general, made everything a bit more spaced out. “The Green Tape” was done on a Tascam 488, but “The Copper Tape” was actually done on the mark 2 version, which adds some more EQ options, so Jay was able to add in some high- and low-pass filter effects. Far from sounding like King Tubby’s desk, but definitely more out there than the last one.

You guys sent the tape to Kevin Metcalfe in London to be mastered. Why did you choose to have Kevin master the tape, considering the distance between you guys?

JB: When Jay mixes a final cut, we have the output from the portastudio going into a digital recorder, so the mixes are printed as WAVs (waveform audio files). We sent the files to Metcalfe through the wonders of the interwebs and let him work his magic. We toyed with the idea of mixing the final versions direct to another tape machine, but we weren’t about to send off an actual tape to get mastered, knowing that we needed digital versions anyway.

You guys have been performing sporadically as Flying Vipers. How do you translate the songs to a live atmosphere? Is there a way for you guys to mix the sound live?

JB: The songs are more straight ahead when we play live, but we’re working with an engineer that knows the arrangements and can apply the right effects at the right time. We’re not trying to recreate the mixes, but certainly use them as a reference.

What’s next for the Flying Vipers in 2017?

MB: We recently had the opportunity to work with reggae legend Johnny Clarke on a track, and we plan to release our first 45 this summer.

JB: And more tapes.

The Flying Vipers are playing with Big D & The Kids Table and the Stray Bullets at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Friday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, available here.

Now Hear This January

“Apology Plant” by Lilith
Disposable America

Apology Plant by Lilith

Lilith’s newest EP, “Apology Plant,” is as close to dreamy as you can get without actually being asleep. The ethereal, earthy tones that wash over this five-song album roll along like fog over a lake. The chill atmosphere of the songwriting creates a cool, nighttime feel for both the mellow and the melancholic.

Guitarist and vocalist Hannah Liuzzo, bassist Kelsey Francis, and drummer Alex Bourne return to the scene with their first album for the Boston-based record label Disposable America. The band’s signature indie-rock riffage and swinging rhythms harken back to alt-rock legends like Liz Phair and The Breeders. Liuzzo’s breathy, almost too-cool-for-school singing style shares the genetic trait so inherent in the DNA of Kim Deal.

This three-piece band has the ability to create songs that generate much more electricity than the standard “power trio” format. While “Apology Plant” shares aesthetic elements of the lo-fi recording style, the songwriting is lofty and complex in a way that’s almost deceiving if you don’t listen closely. Liuzzo’s guitar playing builds a strong foundation for the superb contributions of Bourne and Francis, carrying the rhythm, melodies, and chords to create a music all its own.

Starting with “Loaded,” “Apology Plant” has the superficial appearance of three-chord-style pop, snuggly fit for mainstream radio. But that’s why the album deserves to be played at high volume. Once you hear all the moving parts (such as fingers moving up and down the frets), you can understand the complexities of the songwriting. Bourne and Francis deliver hip-swinging swagger, whitewashing their pop sensibilities with cymbals and distortion. Meanwhile, Liuzzo’s guitar goes into full effect with tiny licks, huge riffs, and solos that are as expressively emotional as they are coolly reserved.

The album comes out in February; get a preview here.

“Make Mine Tuesday” by Rick Rude
Sophomore Lounge Records and Tiny Radars

Make Mine Tuesday by Rick Rude

Of all the bands on the Seacoast, nobody does music like Rick Rude. Right up to their newest release, “Make Mine Tuesday,” the band has perfected a cocktail blend of avant and pop that’s both arty and accessible. In the vein of alt-rock’s coolest weirdos, like Pavement, Built To Spill, and Guided By Voices, Rick Rude presents an abstract vision of the world through the vehicle of quirky, catchy rock and roll.

Released less than a year after Rick Rude’s soon-to-be-classic EP “Mind Cook,” “Make Mine Tuesday” is the band’s first full-length LP since 2011’s “Heavyweights.” While the songs are still very much in the distinct Rick Rude style, there is a cohesiveness to the songs that helps the album really flow like a singular unit. In contrast to “Mind Cook,” which felt more like five “best of” singles stitched together in one EP, “Make Mine Tuesday” is a structure built of 12 songs all molded from the same clay.

The album is a perfect Rick Rude sandwich, starting with the bread and butter of “Bald & Fat in Houston TX,” which features lackadaisical twang crescendoing into noise-fueled explosion, and the low-fi home recording of “Brain Emblem.” Each track features the vital elements that make up Rick Rude, like the limbs Voltron: the dueling guitar riffs and hollering, sometimes haunting vocals of Ben Troy and Noah Lefebvre; the riff-heavy bass and soothing songs of Jordan Holtz; and Ryan Harrison’s jazz-influenced drumming warped by mania.

If you’re curiosity has been piqued by the album’s title, you’re not alone. Rick Rude’s ability to write clever, yet cryptic lyrics makes for great sing-alongs. “Bald & Fat in Houston TX,” sung confidently by Troy, is abstract alliteration that still manages to tell a story. “Sunhead,” on its surface, is a catchy single tucked in the college radio sphere, but upon closer examination is a song about how the song is … a song. And “Mauve Song,” one of the band’s first singles circulating around the music blogosphere, is four lines of lyrics “Make way Monday / Take Tuesday back again / Make mine Tuesday / Find friends for fond of play.”

Rick Rude puts on some of the most compelling live shows in the area, and you’re guaranteed to be whistling one of their tunes after the last note has been plucked on this album. Don’t miss these guys when they play on a stage or in a basement near you.

Listen to the new album here.

“Death of the Moth” by Blacklake
self-released

Death of the Moth by Blacklake

Underneath the dark demeanor of “Death of the Moth” lies fragile beauty. From the stark transitions of the opening riff’s twee sensibilities to the hyper-overdriven thrashing of the vocals, Blacklake’s one and only album reflects the art of pure expression.

The project, bred from the brain of the late Matt Aspinwall and released late last year, presents a band fueled by raw emotion. Aspinwall’s steady melodies collide with his howling throat, belting out touching poetry followed by poignant, melodic transitions to grip your heart, like a hand holding you through the intensity of the album.

Aspinwall’s lyrics create a narrative complete with themes, concise descriptions, alliteration, and, most importantly, language that is simply poetic. On the surface, the singer is mourning his inability to save a moth before it got stuck “in between the glass and screen / Rotting silently,” and grappling with the guilt that lingers over a series of days and nights.

But, placed against the backdrop of Aspinwall’s “moody pop,” the album’s theme becomes more grandiose, as though putting the singer-songwriter’s hidden feelings under a microscope. Sometimes even the most fragile, weightless tragedies can send us into an emotional spiral for days. When the album’s final track, “The Deer Go Back to the Woods,” explodes out of your speakers, Aspinwall yells into an overly distorted mic, “Nothing left worth saying.” He tries slowly, hesitantly, to move beyond his past and never look back.

This album is not for purists of sound engineering; you won’t hear a perfect mix. But these 14 recordings capture a real performance, the type of set you’d hear in an artspace with high ceilings and thin walls, or in a basement where the excess sound has nowhere else to go but circle around the room and fold back into itself. Or in the performer’s bedroom, where he’d allow you to listen in even before the work was fully finished. “Death of the Moth” captures the heart of a true artist who we tragically lost too soon.

Give it a listen here.

tip five albums 2016

This top-five list is an opportunity to direct listeners to some of the best albums this community has to offer. The music does not belong to one particular genre, scene, or audience, and these albums aren’t just songs. They’re personal stories, they’re unique visions, and they seem to service the artists as much as the audience. Amid the spectrum of incredible music that has come out this year, these are some of the albums that stood above — at least to this writer.

With the next RPM Challenge right around the corner, I couldn’t be more excited for 2017. Despite all the turmoil in the world, we can trust that artists will continue to make music, and that we can all continue to seek therapy in it.

“Mind Cook EP” by Rick Rude
Salty Speakers/Cat Dead, Details Later

Mind Cook by Rick Rude

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Rick Rude’s energetic, mind-cooking album-release show happened a full nine months ago. The band performed at the top of its game, bringing an enormous crowd out to the Wrong Brain art space and destroying the room (figuratively, of course). At the center of it all were some brand new songs from the “Mind Cook EP.”

In just five songs, the Dover quartet created one of the most definitive works of art in the area. The band’s earlier recordings featured more lo-fi songs; a demo version of the EP’s first track, “Sap,” was recorded on a cell phone. But with “Mind Cook,” Rick Rude pulled it together and showed that underneath the low-tech recordings was a talented, unrivaled band.

The EP’s A side features a more conventional, accessible sound. “Sap” and “54 TLOC” play like radio-friendly singles, with catchy vocals, welcoming riffs, and a hybrid strain of power-pop. On the B side, by contrast, the band shows its ability to blur genre lines while creating memorable songs. “Stromboli,” a quasi-metal rocker, sounds nothing like the surf-influenced punk of the album’s title track, which sounds nothing like the album’s closer, “Little Boy,” a folk number worthy of a campfire sing-along.

Honestly, an EP can be a finicky purchase, especially when you’re buying vinyl. But since this album dropped in March, I’ve run through both sides at least three times whenever I put the record on (which has been often this year). The album showcases the band’s impeccable ability to balance between the fun and the fastidious. It’s a fascinating record full of goofiness and poetry and goofy poetry that makes Rick Rude one of the most exciting bands to see on the Seacoast.

Their next album, “Make Mine Tuesday,” is coming out soon, with a release show scheduled for Jan. 7 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. Listen to “Mind Cook” first to get in the proper mindset. Check it out here.

“It Calls On Me” by Doug Tuttle
Trouble in Mind Records

It Calls On Me by Doug Tuttle

When I spoke to Doug Tuttle about this record back in February, he didn’t have much to say about it. And, without the lyrics in front of you, it’s difficult to even hear what he’s saying on the record. But Tuttle’s sophomore album, “It Calls On Me,” speaks volumes, bolstering an aesthetic similar to artists like Kurt Vile or J Mascis. The expression of the self can be found in the music.

The nine tracks on the album are like the plants in a botanical garden: the individual make-up of each differs, but collected together, they create a fascinating display of unity. The Byrds-esque bop of “A Place For You” twists differently than the R.E.M.-style jangle of the title track, which flows separately from the Neil Young-ish qualities of “Painted Eye.”

Though the album is deeply influenced by the soft rock of the ’70s, Tuttle’s innovative vision features both haziness and clarity. The rubbery bass textures, the drums at a volume careful not to wake the neighbors, and Tuttle’s guitar wizardry make the songs sparkle like a river at high noon.

One of the best things about this record is that its hazy psychedelia provides the perfect soundtrack to a walk around town in every season — another “acid test” for best-of albums. Tuttle’s masterful, psychedelic work evokes bliss and contentedness, offering another damn good record to spin whenever the mood strikes. To get a copy, click here.

“The Lesser-Known Tristan Omand” by Tristan Omand
self-released

The Lesser Known Tristan Omand

As outlined in a story for The Sound back in April, this album almost didn’t happen. Struggles with funding could have very easily made it a dead leaf in the wind.

Instead, after a boost from local production company Bright & Lyon made it a reality, parts of Omand’s fourth record have lingered with me since its release in the spring. Riffs such as “Thirty Days of Darkness” and “A Letter Home” inspired me to introduce the album to friends who are fans of folk and Americana.

What really drives the spirit is Omand’s brilliance as a lyricist, with lyrics like, “I bet all the sand in Hampton Beach / that the life you wanted is within reach,” and, “If livin’ was so damn easy / you’d get to heaven doing half the work.” The words bring clarity to relatable, sorrowful moments, like the sun peeking from behind cloud cover.

Omand comes from the school of folk singer-songwriters who believe the stories told are just as important as the music. Artists like Bill Morrissey, Hank Williams Sr., and Tom Waits shine through in Omand’s songs. Themes of downtrodden loneliness are balanced by the admirable ability to find hope. Songs like “Welcome to the Lonely Lanes” and “Night Time, East Side” give you the feeling of trying in vain to start a beat-up old pickup truck, while in tracks like “Old Straight Six” and “A Letter Home,” the engine roars to life, though uncertainty still looms.

This is Omand’s most intimate album to date (hence, the title). While his previous album, “Eleven Dark Horses,” demonstrated his ability to create tall tales, “The Lesser-Known Tristan Omand” feels more personal. But, in turning inward toward himself, Omand makes his music even more relatable to others. Listening might help you learn a little more about the lesser-known you, as well. Have a listen here.

“Groove Lounge (feat. Bria Ansara)” by Groove Lounge
TVP Records

Groove Lounge

It’s no secret that funk thrives in the Seacoast music scene. I went into the University of New Hampshire as a punk-rock fan, but changed my tune after hearing local bands like Harsh Armadillo and the Feel Goods, and hanging out at places like The Stone Church in Newmarket, The Press Room in Portsmouth, and Fury’s Publick House in Dover. There’s something to see every night of the week that’ll get you in the mood to groove into the wee hours.

One of the best and most interesting records that came out this year built an orchestra of danceable, funky tunes with one producer. “Groove Lounge” has the kind of groove and swing that is the perfect fix for the “Saturday Night Fever” crowd, and yet the album is suitable for times of relaxation as well. The downtempo flavor of the music would work well in a weekend party atmosphere or a laidback lounge at cocktail hour.

Extracting elements of pure acid jazz from the likes of the Brooklyn Funk Essentials and Thievery Corporation and melting it into a pot of trip-hop built from the Nightmares on Wax sound, Groove Lounge bumps the beat for the head as much as the feet. From smooth psychedelia (“Intro”) to soft bossanova (“Keep Up”) to full-on funk (“S.N.L”), “Groove Lounge feat. Bria Ansara” is the go-to soundtrack for those late-night hours.

The album is also exciting because it serves as a gateway into exploring the Seacoast DJ scene, which, according to fans, has been kept underground far too long. Find it on Spotify or iTunes.

“The Smallest, Darkest Things” by Guy Capecelatro III
Burst & Bloom Records

The Smallest Darkest Things by Guy Capecelatro III

Guy Capecelatro III is a master of sorrowful folk, and his latest release lingers with an even heavier heart than usual. The album is a touching tribute to the late Dave Lamb of Brown Bird, and Lamb’s influence is heard all over the record; Capecelatro even covered one of Lamb’s songs on the album.

But “The Smallest, Darkest Things” touches on a grander theme, the constant push and pull of life and death. Each song is like a short story, written in a blue mood, about coping with the struggle of life. The beautiful, mournful music hangs like an overcast sky throughout the album. But there’s also diversity: From the sexy swagger of the guitar riff on “Late of Day” to the haunting melodies of “How to Begin (for Dave),” the album incorporates alternative rock, downtempo folk, and even a bit of jazz.

The sadness and sorrow of this November release draws up powerful emotion at first listen. I spun this record at least 10 times in the first week after I acquired it. The collection adds to Capecelatro’s already ridiculously impressive catalog of music. But this album stands out because of its raw emotion, which is often the best thing to get you through the creeping crawl of the dark winter months. More info here.