As 2021 draws to a close and labels commence with their final year-end push, the term pandemic album becomes more common. While artists and festivals are slowly moving toward normalcy, it’s still a description the labels are dealing with. The past few years have been tough and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all grown in ways we weren’t expecting. But not all of it is bad. As society tests their own patience with masks, mandates, and each other, artists like Sylmar have been honing their skill as Cincinnati’s most promising indie act. The fruits of their labor? Their new album Glass Ladders, on Soul Step Records.
For a relatively new band, Sylmar has already made a name for themselves with their explosive live shows.
But just like every other band in the United States over the past few years, the momentum was put in question. Instead of throwing themselves in a panic, Sylmar took the time off to work on their sophomore album and in-band chemistry. Glass Ladders isn’t a reinvention of the wheel though. There is all the neo-jazz pop and spontaneous jam-band elements found in their 2017 self-titled debut. But there is no mistaking the air of maturity flowing within and without each and every track.
In fact, that maturity takes center stage most of the time. The title track, with its Vampire Weekend-meets-Grouplove vibe, is placed directly in the middle of the tracklisting for a reason. It acts almost like a beacon for those who may have thought the band is changing their core sound.
However, that’s not to say Sylmar is afraid to experiment beyond a fresh coat of paint.
“College Try” sees the band dipping their toes in R&B, “Kinks” kicks things off with fusion flavors. And “Needja” goes full-on psychedelic and frantic as if Taking Back Sunday joined an Amnesiac-era Radiohead session. But tracks like “Isle of Mann” and “Daylight” showcase Sylmar’s knack for finding beauty in the most somber places. I may go as far as to say that even if there were no vocals, each and every track would have no problem conveying its respective story. That goes the other way too. The soulful vocal lines and honest lyrics elevate the emotion the tracks run on.
I know it’s been a rough few years and we’re all a little tired, but Glass Ladders is like a testimony. We can use this downtime to unpack some of our issues and work on who we are as people. Sylmar has taken that approach to their musical output and it shows. This is still the same band making a name for themselves in the indie world, but with this fine-tuned evolution, I think they are ready for an even bigger stage.
Glass Ladders is available on vinyl exclusively through Soul Step Records.