In an indie rock scene crowded with overly serious bands, mandolin-strumming folkies and lightweight synth-heavy 80s revival acts, its important to embrace genuine rock bands like Stuyvesant. These Hoboken/NYC-area music scene vets serve up a power pop platesetter of goodness with some serious musicianship and a love for giant hooks, razor-sharp stop-starts, and spring melodies. 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. Ten 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 as 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 a sucker for any band with two equally adept ad divergent singers (Husker Du and The Clash come 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, 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 the upcoming release Shmyvesant (Sugarblast, 2014).
“Baby 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, and it was such a welcome burst, rarely does a new song resonate that quickly. 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.
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. “Shhh” 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.
“3AM,” a song filled with hope and sweetness, is the perfect track for a group of guys who come together after their day jobs are done and the kids are in bed to make and play music that they obviously love and are exceptionally good at, and keep music nerds like me very happy in the process. Thanks, guys!