The sound of Boston in the new millennium is seemingly undefinable, as the city grows beyond its previous reputation as a haven for gritty, down-home rock music. For the fourth year, media group Redefined is aiming to, well, redefine that sound with a genre-spanning, 10-track compilation featuring the music of local indie artists.
Under the banner of Redefined’s 617Sessions, “Sound of Our Town 2020” is available Friday on streaming platforms. The compilation features local stalwarts including Red Shaydez, Ava Sophia, and Mint Green. 617Sessions has produced the compilation at no cost to the artists, and all of the tracks were recorded and mixed professionally at The Bridge Sound & Stage in Cambridge.
Redefined is also responsible for the Boston Music Awards, for which 617Sessions serves as a teaser and a conduit. (The just-announced list of 2020 BMA nominees can be found at www.bostonmusicawards.com/nominees. Winners will be announced on Dec. 11.)
“We listen to every single entry that we get,” says Paul Armstrong of Redefined. “We definitely lean towards newer artists. The idea is that we don’t want to have any financial barrier for the artists to record music.”
On this compilation, you will hear the emotional swells of acoustic rock, the boom-bap of locally grown trap, and charming riffs and vocal runs from pop and R&B artists. The compilation opens with “Better Days” by Juniper, a timely number for 2020: “Locked away we thought we’d survive the siege of the blitzkrieg/It’s the end of it all for the quarantine team.” A highlight is Prateek’s “Diamonds,” an unlikely blues ballad which showcases the singer’s extensive and emotive vocal range.
Pop music artist Yavin, born and raised in Weymouth, praised the 617Sessions team for a rewarding experience. “The application process was pretty easy," he says. “They were so cooperative and collaborative, and willing to work with whatever vision I had in mind.” Yavin’s “Insecurities,” an acoustic-guitar-driven swan song, is the fourth track on “Sound of Our Town 2020.”
The 617Sessions compilations have previously spotlighted up-and-coming artists whose careers have since taken off. Sidney Gish, featured in 2017, was voted among Stereogum’s 40 Best New Artists in 2018. Local rap heroes Oompa and Brandie Blaze have also been featured, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, in addition to rappers Rex Mac and SeeFour, both in 2019. SeeFour recently released his second album, “Recovery Island”; post-punk group House of Harm, also on the 2019 compilation, signed to Avant! Records this summer and recently released their first full-length, “Vicious Pastimes.”
Though the artists skew young this year, “Sound of Our Town 2020” is racially inclusive, featuring Black, Latino, Asian, and South Asian artists and band members.
Armstrong sees the compilations as a pipeline for independent artists into the BMAs — although there are no plans for a live stage show this year due to the pandemic. “We program the 617Sessions fully into the Boston Music Awards at the House of Blues; it’s one of the most exciting parts of the night and a look at the future sound of Boston. . . . I think this goes a little way in helping them build their names more, which hopefully leads to future shows, press coverage, and beyond.” Indeed, Gish, Oompa, and House of Harm have all collected awards from the BMAs in the past two years.
Overall, 617Sessions is a testament to the variety and fortitude of the local Boston scene, and a reminder for skeptics and jaded transplants to look no further.
“The local music scene is as strong now as it has been for years,” Armstrong says. “It’s so easy to criticize and look back with rose-tinted glass at what we had. It’s harder to support, look forward, and take ‘risks’ on something unproven. We’re proud to take the harder route, because we see that Boston’s music scene doesn’t need ‘to come back.’ It never went away. You just need to know where to look.”