Essex Green. Also known as Essex Green HC-188. This concentrated green inspires thoughts of storied academic settings overgrown with ivy.*
But this Essex Green is a trio from Brooklyn, with a newish album, and one that’s neck-and-neck with the Brian Jonestown Massacre in the album-of-the-year race: Hardly Electronic, the band’s fourth. This green inspires thoughts of not only “neo-psychedelic pop” (as their label describes them) or 60s-70s folk-pop like Fairport Convention, but anything melodic from one end of rock ‘n’ roll to the other. Dig all those hooks and harmonies…but with a modern (I guess Brooklyn) edge.
Right off the bat, Hardly Electronic lets loose with bursts of Feelies-inspired energy and Squeeze-like keyboards (“Sloane Ranger”), Parallel Lines-era Blondie sounds (“The 710”), and a magnificent melding of Belle & Sebastian with perhaps the Go-Go’s? (“Don’t Leave It in Our Hands”). After that, the exquisite “In the Key of Me” features more than a few Joni Mitchell moments along with cello and oboe; a nice electric piano introduces “Modern Rain” which unfolds into a bouncy Beatles/Bee Gees atmosphere; “Catatonic” features a chorus that pairs Sasha Bell’s sparkling vocals with a driving, Pete Townshend-ish guitar; “Bye Bye Crow” is country-twangy; “Waikiki” is Hawaiian-twangy; “Smith & 9th” lets us know we’re in Bklyn, not Calif; and “Bristol Sky” finishes things up quietly with a Syd Barrett-esque, flute-infused waltz.
The Essex Green was formed when Bell, Jeff Baron, Chris Ziter, and Michael Barrett (all of the band Guppyboy) moved from Burlington, Vermont to Brooklyn and began gigging around the NYC area. They briefly joined the Elephant 6 Recording Company (the 1990s indie collective that produced the Apples in Stereo, the Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and others), and released their first album, Everything Is Green, in 1999. The Long Goodbye followed in 2003 on Merge Records, and Cannibal Sea in 2006. Now, a dozen years later, The Essex Green are back. The band recently performed in their hometown at the Knitting Factory, kicking off a two-month national tour, so catch the Essex Green in, like, Omaha, Nebraska on October 8?
*Description courtesy benjaminmoore.com
Images courtesy ticketfly.com, theessexgreen.bandcamp.com, hotelcongress.com, theroccollective.com