This article first appeared in The Alt on December 27, 2016.
Maintaining a DIY scene can be a challenge. Members move in and out of groups or go solo, college kids take off for the holidays, venues close up, cops are called on particularly loud (successful) basement sets. But in Albany, it’s as good as it’s ever been.
So says Dan Maddalone of Coupons. He’s been involved in the music scene since 2008, starting with Barons in the Attic until 2014. Now, the bassist, guitarist and singer has recently wrapped up a nine-month gig with Coupons. He took part in the engineering, mixing and recording and performing of the band’s Number One Hit Album, released in July. While Coupons future is unclear for the upcoming year, Maddalone doesn’t plan on bowing out just yet. He is one of the many Albany-based musicians hailing from the original house scene that developed under the B3nson Recording Company nearly ten years ago. The collective group of musicians, artists and writers ruled the underground in its early millennium years, and it’s original groups have branched off in tenfold–but it took some serious work to develop.
The scene has exploded, perhaps due to the influx of new artists and underground venues or that the artists decided they were unwilling to let the scene die away after so much time in desolation. Over the past few years, the quantity of shows and performers has boomed, with new releases planned out for the year from dozens of quality veterans and up-and-comers.
“It’s gotten so much better, I think it’s still on an upswing,” Slowshine’s Noah Bondy said.
“I think people have taken notice. When you look at event like LarkFest, which in the past had some really shotty booking, this year looked like a giant basement show, only outdoors with hundreds of people! It was incredible to think almost all of the local bands playing were less than three years old.”
Slowshine is another long-standing indie trailblazer. In the years the scene spent in self-repair, his band was there. Regularly performing at the now-defunct Treehouse, the group continued putting on shows despite the limiting scene and considers their consistent presence a key player to the return. They has been recording this year and plan to release their new album on April 12 at the latest. “Just finished getting it mastered last week,” Bondy said. “We’re putting a lot of focus on writing and perfecting our live act.” The self-proclaimed “existential goth pop” group engineered, mixed, and mastered their last album White Lexus in February 2015 at WCDB Albany. Recording at radio stations is not uncommon for these DIY bands, Coupons spent 54 hours in a row recording their 2016 release at WEQX in Manchester, Vt. Other bands opt for in-house recording, done in self-made studios or the basements of fellow artists.
The musicians are constantly making moves, helping each other in the realm of production and engineering while respecting the need for creative space when it comes to writing lyric and melody.
The DIY scene is extremely proud of where the quality and style of their music has ended up and the massive response they receive from the public. Jouska, one of the area’s most successful bands, released their album Topiary on Nov. 7 and recently signed with Tiny Engines, the well-known indie record label from the Carolinas. Last week, they were mentioned in Spin magazine as a notable new talent “making a striking entree that consolidated … anxious post-rock and ambient experimentation.”
Prince Daddy and the Hyena’s explosive album I Thought You Didn’t Even Like Leaving, released Sep. 23, made The Alternative’s Top 50 list of 2016 releases beating out Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, Hotelier and A Tribe Called Quest–and not just by the skin of their teeth. The album made No. 4 and was commended for their connective songwriting. “Each of their songs explode with angst and deep lyrical introspection about being in your 20’s dealing with anxiety and depression . . . but also the determined resilience to just keep on going.” It’s an exceptional listen.
The bands populating the Capital Region seem to never stop going. They are constantly recording, playing radio gigs, planning underground shows, collaborating at venues and overlapping in production.
Just this Thursday, The Low Beat hosted a show featuring native Albany musicians to welcome home Tony Bucci, New York’s prodigal son back (for a week) from sunny L.A. The venue was packed with fellow musicians and fans who hovered around the stage to stake down a prime viewing spot. They Are Gutting A Body of Water, a solo project from Jouska’s Doug Dulgarian, who released his self-titled nine-track soundscape July 26 after a three-month recording session, opened to a mesmerized crowd. The entire bar had nearly fallen to complete silence following his every word. His vocals in the closing song, “Swanny Love,” was matched by the screaming of the crowd: “You’re so sexy when you hate society.” Next was the sweet and psychedelic indie group Hospital Corners. They released their debut EP Birdfire in August and the “ghostcore” group has been hunkered down in guitarist Craig Dutra’s studio recording a new album for 2017. County Mike followed with an impressive showcase of his songwriting ability, playing crowd favorites as they sang along to “Tall Chick” and “Election,” off of his new release. When Broken Field Runner (pictured) closed the show, the very air became electric. He and the band have a new project in the works, the first since the debut LP Clear a Heaven So This Earth Can Breathe in September 2015. It felt as if something had been released, setting the crowd free in all their headbanding glory. The amped up audience reluctantly let the set end after a final request for “Black Irish” and trickled out, shaking their heads at each other in sheer admiration. If the listing so far hasn’t been incredible enough, hold on tight and take some notes—there’s been a mass amount of creativity permeating the area this year so I’m about to hit you with some more:
Starting in January, Troy’s psychedelic garage rock group Rechorduroys recorded and released their single “Honey Bee” and have been playing lives shows around the city all year.
Troy’s Bear Grass hasn’t released anything since 2013’s Stories in Books but has been playing live since their first performance at the Albany Tulip Festival in 2012. They are currently working on their unnamed new album and told The Alt it is set to be released “sometime in 2017.”
Indie singer-songwriter Another Michael released the emotional acoustic four-track Sans on March 6 that will tug at your heartstrings and reach for the outcast in you.
“Slacker-rockers” Hammer Hawk came out with their first full length album Real Dim May 20 that exhibits a beautiful indifference. “Maybe the light fades. Maybe the light leaves altogether. The slow burn of hell above us.The alpenglow of a lost paradise. Maybe it’s both – probably not. It’s hard to tell.”
Albany’s alt-punk hardcore band Throat Culture just wrapped up a tour along the east coast, traveling from Pennsylvania to Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida. They released Everyone Loves You mid-June. Before the psychedelic garage rock trio Sun Natives got a little heavier and a little spookier with their August demo release, the multi-instrumentalist trio Jasper released their debut self-titled EP in July and their singer/drummer/guitarist Alex Brooks released his own solo EP Wisdom Teeth soon after. Jasper is planning a mystery album for next year that, like everyone else’s, we will just have to wait for.
The albums mentioned are available via Bandcamp download (some can be found on Spotify and iTunes) and there’s even more to look forward to in the upcoming year. Here’s hoping 2017 delivers even a piece of what this year has for the upstate’s ever-evolving underground world.
“Albany’s music scene is lit,” Maddalone said. “If it was ever sicker than it is right now, then . . . holy shit.”