In an indie rock scene crowded with overly-serious bands, mandolin-strumming folkies, and lightweight synth-heavy 80s revival acts, it’s incredibly important and necessary to embrace genuine rock bands like Stuyvesant who brazenly and effortlessly tear it up with a “we’ve been at this a while and we’re still having a lot of fun” workmanlike vibe. These Hoboken/NYC area music scene vets serve up a power pop meets old school Cali-punk plate of goodness with some serious musicianship and a love for giant hooks, razor-sharp stop-starts, and soaring melodies replete with glorious backing oohs and ahhs. They are one of those bands you sing along to after the second spin of their record, gleefully infectious and exhilarating.
I clearly remember hearing “Victorian Lawns” (Linden Calling) for the first time back in 2008. I got an email from comedian/musician juggernaut Dave Hill promoting a show for his band Valley Lodge, playing with Stuyvesant at the Mercury Lounge. I figured any band sharing the bill with the mighty Valley Lodge would have the same love of rocking out, so I sped over to MySpace and fired up some Stuyvesant. 10 seconds in, I was hooked. “Victorian Lawns” exploded with everything I loved about power pop and punk coming together like best buds: hyper melodic arrangements with buzzing guitars, pummeling bass, spot-on cymbal crashing, and earnest vocals that brought back memories of everyone from Big Drill Car, Doughboys, Descendents, early Lemonheads, as well a straight up power pop oldies like The Shoes, The Raspberries, and Cheap Trick.
In 2011, Stuyvesant released the stellar Fret Sounds. Burners like “Clyde,” “Duly Noted” and “St. Cloud” have been in constant iPod rotation ever since. The 10-song offering is full of wistful nostalgia and tales of love and life with just enough edge and humor for balance.
I’m sucker for any band with two equally adept and divergent singers (Hüsker Dü and The Clash comes to mind). Whether Ralph Malanga sings lead (on the majority of songs) with his yearning Ben Deily-esque delivery or Sean Adams brings an almost alt-country feel (“Cimarron, NM” is a beauty), there is a complimentary cohesiveness to their sound. They also back each other up nicely on almost every song and share vocals on a few—which brings me to my favorite songs on their spanking new Schmyvesant (Sugarblast Music, 2014).
“Bear Bear” kicks off the record in grand fashion. Highlighting everything that Stuyvesant does well, it wastes no time grabbing you and letting you revel in the euphoria. I saw them play this live recently, it’s a full-throttle ride with super steady Brian Musikoff standing/hopping front and center on bass and Peter Martinez killing it behind the kit. Maybe (definitely) I’m just geeking out too much with the references, but I hear so much great stuff here, everything from the escalating guitar work of The Nils (Canada) to elated vocals of The Producers (old 80s Atlanta act).
The biggest and most welcome surprise is “Gravity’s Winning,” sung by Sean with the earthy growl of a Drive By Truckers track—a nice respite from the normal full-on Stuyvesant charge. The song culminates in a powerful, downright pretty crescendo.
It’s quickly followed by maybe their catchiest song ever, the cleverly named “Hellbent for Heather,” an homage to the dream girls of our youth. “Oatmeal” is another lovely surprise, haunting and swaying. “Shnh” perks things up quickly and leads into “Silent Treatment” a straight-ahead should-be-a-hit that could be used in a number of movie trailers with great effect, the “yoooouuuuuuuus” and “meeeeeeeeeees” will stick with you.
“3AM,” a song filled with hope and a sweetness, is the perfect closing track for a group of guys who come together—after their day jobs are done and their kids are tucked in— to make music that they obviously love and perform exceptionally well.
Listen and Buy: Shmyvesant
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