Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh was quoting his mother when he said ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and that seems like the right spirit to round out this year’s blog posts. A little more niceness won’t hurt anybody. Today’s acts are so very nice. Just the kind you could take home to mother.
The Smittens exude everything that people who are not from Burlington Vermont think that town would be about. Quirky free spirits just saying ‘hey, let’s live and let live!’ City Rock Dove is their latest album and it’s a longplaying bit of wonderful, with nearly every track capturing some wistful sentiment or upbeat heartache. I love “Three States,” “Love is a Word,” and, well, just about everything else. Let’s settle on “Season One” as emblematic of their Magnetic Fields meets Simon and Garfunkel brand of eccentric intimacy. Ben Talmi is an indie artist with a long resume of providing musical arrangements and backdrops for others but with Distractionism it really feels like his own artistic vision has come together. His hooky acoustic vibe and soft intimate vocal style reminds of Jeremy Fisher and Paul Simon at times, particularly on tracks like “Life is but a Dream” and “All for You.” But if I have to focus your attention on his unique brilliance, check out the fabulous roll out to “Chances.” You’ll be hooked.
Billy and Dolly have a great 1960s vibe going, with jangly guitars, rumbly organ and melody to spare. But what grabs you are the killer vocal harmonies! On Five Suns the duo rock out the hooks on tracks like “Setting Sun” but you can pretty much sum up the genius here with the gorgeous “Everything is Off.” Textbook should-be hit single. By contrast The Sidekicks somehow manage to make a pretty bleak situation sound totally OK on “Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” Again, some pretty hooky vocals draw the listener in. The singer may not be dancing but we are! “Weed Tent” is another melodic highlight.
Time to activate that nice-ness and visit The Smittens, Ben Talmi, Billy & Dolly, and The Sidekicks online with your cheeriest fistful of music-buying cash. It’s really the nice thing to do.