2021 has been a strange year. I mean, there’s no comparison to the dumpster fire of 2020, but what is? It’s almost as if the arching theme for 2021 is apprehension. States are getting a grip on the pandemic, vaccines are going out, masks are coming off, and even festivals are greenlit. On paper, these things are leading up to a return to normalcy but in reality, we’re all just a little cautious. In some ways, the music reflects that. Despite artists planning shows later in the year and labels working toward their big releases, there is no denying things aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders just yet. Maybe that’s what makes Bipolar Ball/College Try, the new single from Sylmar so entertaining? It’s all of us.
The last time we checked in on Cincinnati’s premiere indie act, they had just put out Telford at Soul Step Records. An odd combination of emo and r&b. However, that was before the pandemic that put life in question and an end to live shows. But while everyone was social distancing, avoiding social media propaganda, and getting cabin fever, Sylmar was planning their triumphant return.
“Bipolar Ball” kicks things off on Side A, with their signature blue-eyed-soul meets pop-punk vibe. It’s bright, sunny, upbeat, and represents our desire to get out and enjoy the life we once knew. Side B’s “College Try” is a rhythmic syncopated jam with a stronger emphasis on groove and atmosphere. But it’s the subtle darker bits like the tweaky guitar coughs and emotional outbursts of harmonies that really elevate the listener’s apprehension.
This is where Sylmar set themselves apart from many blue-eyed punks like Vampire Weekend or Grouplove. There’s an emotional depth that puts its hooks in you in unexpected ways. Is it heartbreaking or flirtatious? Breezy or poised? All questions never really answered but without leaving you hanging. Their core sound is like a song ending on a suspended chord and it keeps you coming back for more!
As their 5th release with Soul Step, Sylmar has found some interesting footing within their growth. Each release sees the band evolve and experiment with both high and low-fidelity compositions. Even though both tracks were recorded a few years back, the up-and-down nature runs parallel with our hopes and fears of what 2021 could bring. It’s not exactly over-caffeinated or undercooked, but just right. And that’s what Sylmar does best!
Bipolar Ball/College Try is available on limited edition vinyl exclusively at Soul Step Records.