Columbus, OH's Connections made not one, not two, but three instant classics last year. This band has the pedigree and the songwriting talent to restore your faith in indie rock, away from all the marketing aspects that glommed onto it once musicians figured out how to slowly pry away the ownership so many of us felt we held to this music back in the '90s. If you labor under the very real possibility that things can be as good as they used to be -- right down to the apparatus making this music available -- Year One will take that burden from you and let you live in peace once more.
All this from noise-pop -- why not? This five-piece has roots in the band 84 Nash, one of the few non-Guided by Voices related prospects to find a place on GBV's Rockathon imprint, back in the dead zone of the late '90s/early '00s, when bands like theirs, so numerous at one point, began to go extinct. Guitarist Andy Hampel and vocalist Kevin Elliott have returned from that earlier group, along with Kevin's brother Adam, who also plays drums in Times New Viking, bassist Philip Kim (Andrew Graham's Swarming Branch) and guitarist Dave Capaldi (El Jesus de Magico). In 2013 they released two stunning, nearly flawless vinyl-only LPs, Private Airplane and Body Language, plus a Record Store Day 7" called Tough City. All three records exist in their own space, knocking back song after song of ear-splittingly earnest power-pop/rock that recalled the last 30 years or so of great music from Ohio, from GBV to the Mice to Harriet the Spy, spring-boarding off of influence that dissolves with each successive effort into a sound all their own. Year One puts all of it on one CD that will ring your head clear like a church bell.
Those Connections records were my hands-down favorites of 2013. I didn't listen to any new band as much as I did this one, and when a song like "Mall Lights" or "Perfect Face" or "She's Cheering Up" makes you remember the work that used to go into creating the perfect 90-minute mix tape, sitting patiently by your stereo, a pile of CDs and 7"s spread out around you, your finger ready to let go of the pause button, you'll understand why. And in keeping with the dusting off of antiquity, they have been calling legendary, long-dormant Columbus label Anyway Records their current home. We can all go back together and remember what happened when this music took hold of us. Connections makes it possible. Absolutely essential release.