Catskill Songs: Demos from the 2018 SFR Challenge

by SubFamily Records

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Mark Lerner
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Mark Lerner I like subs and familes, so this was a no-brainer.
Andrea Onstot
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Andrea Onstot A buncha fuckin nerds
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Catskill Songs is offered for free streaming and download. Any donations go directly to SFR’s 2019 operating budget.

The Hudson Valley, New York, cooperative label SubFamily Records presents its second compilation of the year and its sixth release overall. Unlike SubFamily’s inaugural compilation SFR 101, which featured advance singles from the label’s slate of 2018 releases, the Bandcamp exclusive Catskill Songs finds this small community of writers and players in bedroom-experimental mode—writing and recording demos under the discipline of a song-a-day challenge undertaken in August of 2018.

Fresh, flawed, and most likely unfinished, Catskill Songs features new material from five SubFamily acts: Macrofone bookends the record with two uncharacteristically electronic songs: the micro-operatic “Body Down” and the toss-off blip-pop of “Caveat.” American Film History’s biting and eloquent “Sad to let you down like this” all but begs someone to make a film just to use this as its keynote song.

Less than two months after the release of his 19-track opus Stubborn Horse (SFR 105), Peter Naddeo serves up a Neil Young-esque roots rocker in “Rag and Bone,” and the ambient choral ballad “Gemini.” Similarly, Hiding Behind Sound’s Sammi Niss contributes a bright guitar pop song (the irresistible “Fact or Fiction”) and the pretty, atmospheric jangle of “Light Brightener.”

Sitting in the middle of the release is “Core,” an elusive, wafting, and sludgy indie rock mood piece by Battle Ave., whose songwriter, Jesse Alexander, initiated and managed the song-a-day challenge that led to this release. “This exercise has been incredibly liberating for me as a songwriter,” says Alexander. “By imposing a time limit, I feel like you erase any chance of overthinking. You are forced to grasp and work with any idea that flies past you, which often leads you far outside your comfort zone as a writer.”

Macrofone’s John Burdick adds, “we’re all fairly handy in our own ways with self-recording, so these aren’t pure song demos in the ‘whispered-into-a-boom box’ sense. For me, arranging and production often enter the picture at a very early stage of writing and demoing, which is not the Tin Pan Alley way.”

After the decision was made to release some fruits of the songwriting challenge as a demo compilation, the writers were given a week or two to develop the songs or tidy up the mixes as required. But nothing here is terribly tidy. It is however, a good and fun listen and an auspicious portent for SubFamily Record’s 2019.


released September 28, 2018


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SubFamily Records Kingston, New York

Cooperative label formed in 2017 by a circle of musical collaborators in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley.

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