Saturday, July 16, 2016

Most Of Summer: A Review Of The Fantastic New Connections Album

There is something decidedly perfect about the AOR-meets-indie approach of Columbus, Ohio's Connections. I've reviewed many of their releases before and new album, Midnight Run, out Friday, is yet another set of reasons for me to get excited about this band. Midnight Run is, like earlier records, concise in its presentation and yet perfect in its overall effect.

The band -- singers Andy Hampel and Kevin Elliott, guitarist Dave Capaldi, bassist Phillip Kim, and new drummer Michael O'Shaughnessy -- offers up something so seemingly simple that it surely can't work and yet it invariably does. On something like "Keepers" for instance, the music roars in the manner of early Husker Du and the yet the hook is even more catchy than those in some of those groundbreaking Mould or Hart cuts. Connections, frequently namechecked -- even by me -- alongside Guided by Voices in terms of sound, here branch out a bit and try their hand at more obvious ballads (the lighters-aloft "All In All", for example), or the buzzing "ABCDED", all throwaway Britpop-style riffs tied up underneath an All-American Rock-covering. The superb "Lisa" serves up early New Wave elements -- Kim's bassline which is worthy of an early Jam single, the near-Cars-like appeal of the main hook -- inside of a grime-y indie wrapper. Gloriously American in approach, this is music as good as anything from the peak years of any band on Merge Records, for instance, if you get what I'm trying to explain about the band's appeal.

Elsewhere, "John From Cincinnati" rides in on what could be a Neil Young hook even as bassist Kim seems to be channeling early New Order in his bass-work. The song unwinds and quickly descends into chaos around the main riff. Entirely catchy, the players here never lose sight of the goal of making wonderfully accessible-yet-abrasive alt-rock. On "Raise Awareness", Connections take something that sounds vaguely like a chord figure from "Jessie's Girl" and put it in the service of noisy tune-age that wouldn't have been entirely out of place on Sonic Youth's Sister album. And when the deliriously-tuneful "Kate And Everyone Else" breezes in, you're gonna want to grab your keys and run outside to hit the highways with this blaring in the ride of your choice. When a Connections cut like this comes on, you feel like you're hearing a selection from the most awesome mix-tape ever made and you almost instinctively reach for the volume to crank the music up even louder.

By no means does Midnight Run tamper with the Connections template. This is a concise set of to-the-point indie that wastes little time or effort in working on a listener. Whether something punchy, or the rare near-ballad, the tracks here charm on the back of basic hooks and a very smart style. Entirely unpretentious but seriously offered, the songs of Connections shine with a Pavement-like sense of unfettered, shambolic glee, even as they sometimes -- usually -- rawk like singles from earlier pioneers Superchunk or Guided By Voices.

Midnight Run by Connections is out Friday via the usual outlets. You can order it via the Bandcamp link too.

Follow Connections via their Tumblr site, or on their official Facebook page.